Marching on to Zion : Prophets of Empire in the 1890s
University of Kentucky
Ph. D. diss.
"Marching on to Zion interrogates religious and imperial thinking by connecting the image of Zion to the American imperialist movements of the 1890s. In my project, Zion serves as a metaphor for where the faithful experience God's most intense blessings, both in past recollections and future achievements. The tension within Latter-day Saints, African-American Protestants, and Jews intensifies as they struggle to define Zion for themselves in the midst of a hostile US culture. Zion as a symbol of hope pervades the fantasies of these groups, even if they live in opposition to the dominant cultural values. As these groups shaped their lifestyles according to their beliefs, the national culture attempted to incorporate them into the secular vision of a universal promised land that adhered to common standards in expansionist United States. The first three chapters of Marching on to Zion analyze fiction and non-fiction produced before and during the Spanish-American War to determine how these groups, explicitly or implicitly, support US imperialism through their descriptions of Zion. The final two chapters shift from these religious groups to investigate how William Dean Howells and children's author Frances Hodgson Burnett maintain a similar, albeit secular faith in the American Zion. Using Howells's utopian series A Traveler from Altruria and Letters from an Altrurian Traveler , and Burnett's novel, Two Pilgrims' Progress , I document the creation of a transcendent sacred and a secular nation that not only encourages empire, but requires it. The tension created by the divergent fantasies of Zion within the United States prepares the nation for an external imperial movement." [Author's abstract]