Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Trafficking Subjects

The Politics of Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America

2004
Author:

Mark Simpson

Trafficking Subjects

Redefines travel in the United States during the antebellum, postbellum, and early modernist periods

In America, travel has been associated with notions of freedom and possibility. Trafficking Subjects challenges this view, demonstrating the complexity of the politics of mobility in American culture. Utilizing works as diverse as Gray's The Confessions of Nat Turner and London's Martin Eden, Mark Simpson traces the dynamics of movement in the nineteenth-century United States, developing a theory of mobility as social contest.

Startlingly original, Trafficking Subjects reformulates everything we thought we knew about travel literature.

Dana D. Nelson, author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men

In America, travel has regularly been associated with romantic notions of freedom, exploration, and possibility. Focusing on a broad range of movement in the nineteenth century, Trafficking Subjects challenges this conventional view, demonstrating the complexity of the politics of mobility in American culture.

The texts that Mark Simpson consults are drawn from a wide range of genres and foreground social and cultural phenomena from slave revolt to fugitive escape, imperial expedition to neocolonial tourism, and market circulation to tramping protest. Utilizing works as diverse as Gray's The Confessions of Nat Turner and London's Martin Eden, Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and Edmonds's Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, Simpson traces the vexed dynamics of movement and its representation in the nineteenth-century United States, developing a theory of mobility as social contest. Questions of national subjectivity and belonging, especially as inflected by race, gender, and social class, bear centrally on his analysis of how mobility as a social and cultural resource comes to be distributed, invested, directed, and determined. Trafficking Subjects helps us to see what it can mean to become subject to America, in all the conflicted senses of that phrase.

Trafficking Subjects

Mark Simpson is associate professor of English at the University of Alberta.

Trafficking Subjects

Startlingly original, Trafficking Subjects reformulates everything we thought we knew about travel literature.

Dana D. Nelson, author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men

In his bold and skillful work, Trafficking Subjects: The Politics of Mobility in Nineteenth-Century American, Mark Simpson not only adds to the valuable body of literature of the myth of American exceptionalism, but also challenges the ways in which growth and expansion have signified progress in traditional narratives. Trafficking Subjects is a fine contribution to the literature detailing the 19th century market and transportation revolutions.

Labour/Le Travail

Mark Simpson’s radical intent is to narrow the skewed, theoretical conception that although public modes of transportation have expanded, virtually all movement remains subjected to the will of those who regulate the movement of goods.

American Literature

Thought-provoking analyses of a wide-ranging selection of nineteenth-century texts—analyses that yield important insights about mobility in the nineteenth-century United States.

Material Culture

Trafficking Subjects is a well-prosecuted and ingenious work. It convincingly illustrates how various literary forms—poems, novels, public exhibitions, travelogues—serviced imperatives of imperial acquisition, capitalist process, ethnic and class divisions, and projections of national destiny.

English Studies in Canada

Mark Simpson’s Trafficking Subjects is . . . a more than welcome intervention in this general field.

Canadian Review of American Studies