Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Nineteenth-Century American Literature, Nationalism, Revolution, Cosmology, Astronomy

Major Advisor

Sharon M. Harris

Associate Advisor

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Associate Advisor

Anna Mae Duane

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


“American Cosmologies” brings together the study of nineteenth-century print culture and the study of metaphor by examining how revolutionary political groups distributed, circulated, and serialized cosmological language in order to materialize political action. Challenging cultural histories that present revolutionary ideals as part of a genuinely universal discourse, this project demonstrates that writers and political actors throughout the nineteenth century deployed the language of cosmic movement – of celestial revolution as political revolution, for instance – as a means of legitimizing and materializing acts of political violence. In attributing political transformation to cosmic forces, writers and revolutionaries rendered in print their belief in a naturalistic, inevitable politics even as the political projects they articulated were contingent and variable. By engaging multiple cosmic-political metaphors, “American Cosmologies” challenges commonplaces about the presumed universality of liberal revolutionary ideals. This project suggests that revolutionary metaphors reveal a history of contradictory, even violent attempts to deploy literature as a means of materializing political power and of territorializing the “universal.”

Available for download on Sunday, December 14, 2025