Acts of Naturalization: Immigration and the Early Novel


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Department of English at the University of California, Los Angeles during academic year 2020-2021


"Acts of Naturalization" recovers an alternative account of national belonging in legal and literary developments in support of immigration in the eighteenth century. This project reveals how early “English” novels were profoundly entangled with the incipient legal framework of naturalization, which understood nationality as an identity that could be created by the secular power of law. Together, the law and the novel experimented with a new idea of nationality as an endlessly modifiable exterior identity, separate from both biological and cultural life. Literary and legal writers developed crucial naturalizing techniques for expanding conceptions of national community that are distinct from the categories of assimilation and ideological acculturation that are used to conceptualize nationality today.