Logically, once you are a regenerated settler, you begin decaying: Ryan Wander, ‘The end(s) of regeneration: naturalist frontier chronotopes and the time of US settler colonial biopolitics’, Settler Colonial Studies, 2020

26Aug20

Abstract: This article reads naturalist portrayals of “post-frontier” frontiers by Frank Norris and Jack London, two key turn-of-the-twentieth-century US literary naturalists, for their chronotopic engagement with the temporal logics and phenomenological orientations that underwrite US settler colonialism. Despite its 1890 “closure,” the concept of the frontier remained central to the ongoing enactment of US settler colonialism around the turn of the twentieth century, and it remains so to this day. This article argues that Norris and London’s naturalist aesthetics support the US settler state’s biopolitics of white ascendance, racialized death, and Native elimination through narratives of white settler death. By considering texts whose narratives appear to contradict the white masculine triumphalism that literary critics often stress in readings of naturalist frontier fiction, I trace how texts including McTeague (1899), The Call of the Wild(1903), and “To Build a Fire” (1908) mobilize US literary naturalism’s evolutionary and typological representational idiom to stage critiques of the racial and genocidal logics of US settler colonialism. Ultimately, these critiques uniquely help to consolidate the phenomenological orientations that underwrite US settler biopolitics: Norris and London’s narratives of white settler death turn the representation of white settler death into a source of (white) settler futurity.



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