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Cambridge University
American Claimants: A Romance in New Clothes

I shall argue for the significance of a particular narrative or dramatic scenario in the nineteenth century, on both sides of the Atlantic. This is the 'American Claimant' plot, in which an American heir turns up to claim a British estate.  The premise allowed writers to dramatize culture clash, often for comic purposes, but also to contrast political systems, to pit history and modernity, or to examine colonialism and revolution. I'll discuss some manifestations in U.S., British Victorian, and South African literature, as well as in a transatlantic antislavery newspaper, Frederick Douglass's Paper. I'll also try to talk a little bit about the process of writing, and I hope that participants will bring their own reflections on this to the Q and A.


Sarah Meer is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Selwyn College. She teaches 19th and 20th-century literature – mainly British and American – and has published two monographs: Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery Minstrelsy, and Transatlantic Culture in the 1850s (2005); and American Claimants: The Transatlantic Romance, c. 1820-1920 (2020).

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/92832511494?pwd=V3dzdElTZVlQSERIamtPeXBzVVMvdz09

Meeting ID: 928 3251 1494
Password: 924295

Live broadcast will be available in Room CRT-7.45, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU.