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Before Borders

A Legal and Literary History of Naturalization

Stephanie DeGooyer

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An ambitious revisionist history of naturalization as a creative mechanism for national expansion.

Before borders determined who belonged in a country and who did not, lawyers and judges devised a legal fiction called naturalization to bypass the idea of feudal allegiance and integrate new subjects into their nations. At the same time, writers of prose fiction were attempting to undo centuries of rules about who could—and who could not—be a subject of literature. In Before Borders, Stephanie DeGooyer reconstructs how prose and legal fictions came together in the eighteenth century to...

An ambitious revisionist history of naturalization as a creative mechanism for national expansion.

Before borders determined who belonged in a country and who did not, lawyers and judges devised a legal fiction called naturalization to bypass the idea of feudal allegiance and integrate new subjects into their nations. At the same time, writers of prose fiction were attempting to undo centuries of rules about who could—and who could not—be a subject of literature. In Before Borders, Stephanie DeGooyer reconstructs how prose and legal fictions came together in the eighteenth century to dramatically reimagine national belonging through naturalization. The bureaucratic procedure of naturalization today was once a radically fictional way to create new citizens and literary subjects.

Through early modern court proceedings, the philosophy of John Locke, and the novels of Daniel Defoe, Laurence Sterne, Maria Edgeworth, and Mary Shelley, DeGooyer follows how naturalization evolved in England against the backdrop of imperial expansion. Political and philosophical proponents of naturalization argued that granting foreigners full political and civil rights would not only attract newcomers but also better attach them to English soil. However, it would take a new literary form—the novel—to fully realize this liberal vision of immigration. Together, these experiments in law and literature laid the groundwork for an alternative vision of subjecthood in England and its territories.

Reading eighteenth-century legal and prose fiction, DeGooyer draws attention to an overlooked period of immigration history and compels readers to reconsider the creative potential of naturalization.

Reviews

Reviews

...superbly interdisciplinary book...

[Before Borders] offers sustained readings of certain English novels of the long 18th century, against the backdrop of early modern changes in the laws and politics of naturalization. DeGooyer works nimbly back and forth between law and literature to trace a history of contiguous legal fictions.

Before Borders is a luminous and persuasive account of a forgotten dimension of legal history in which naturalization does not involve assimilation. DeGooyer has an enviable gift for historical narrative, and her revisionist account of the early novel as working analogously with naturalization law adds to the critical vocabulary of world literature.

DeGooyer has a distinctive voice in making provocative and important arguments about nation and narrative in the long eighteenth century. Before Borders is a book of genuine brilliance.

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Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Open Country
Part I: Theories of Naturalization
1. Naturalization in History
2. Ideas of Naturalization
Part II: Fictions of Naturalization
3. Law of the Foreign Father
4. Open

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Open Country
Part I: Theories of Naturalization
1. Naturalization in History
2. Ideas of Naturalization
Part II: Fictions of Naturalization
3. Law of the Foreign Father
4. Open-Door Domestic Fiction
Part III: Relations of Naturalization
5. Unnatural-Born Subjects
Coda: The World of Yesterday
Notes
Index

Author Bio
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Stephanie DeGooyer

Stephanie DeGooyer (CHAPEL HILL, NC) is assistant professor and Frank Borden Hanes and Barbara Lasater Hanes Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the coauthor of The Right to Have Rights.