"Harrison reinterprets the United States’ relationship to the empire with great subtlety and nuance."
—Robert Bennett, The Montana Professor
Harrison discusses how the mercenary romance, an understudied subgenre of the historical romance first popularized by Bret Harte and Richard Harding Davis, owes its conception to William Walker. Engaging the work of other scholars such as Quentin Anderson and Judith Butler, Harrison places Walker in the company of Aaron Burr, Theodore Roosevelt, Oliver North, and other American conquistadors. Walker and such fellow agents of empire, Harrison argues, exemplify a peculiar merging of Emersonian inner mastery and the American habit of equating self with nation. Inward-looking at first, they soon set their sights, as special agents of providence or the state, on such places as Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Philippines, and more recently, Vietnam and Iraq.
Agent of Empire is a timely exploration of American imperialism and its troubling components of hypermasculinity, racism, and ambition. Harrison shows how literature helps us gauge the ever-shifting desires, fantasies, arguments, and ideologies that continue to underwrite our imperial ventures, private and public.
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