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Abstract

This dissertation focuses on canonical literary and political texts that thematize Euro-American diplomacy from the turn of the 20th century up to the Versailles Treaty at the end of the First World War. It situates these texts as responses to their geopolitical moment, and the transformations of the “new diplomacy” into a modern discipline supposedly characterized by democratic transparency, bureaucratic centralization, and the institutions of liberal international consensus. My central argument is that these texts outline an alternative understanding of diplomacy that departs from its officially mandated form as an emanation of raison d’etat, by turning instead to reconfigure diplomacy and its subjects in terms of ethics, publics, and economics. This argument extends John Marx’s claim that fiction can pose experiments in democratizing expertise in the project of administration, by considering how memoir, ethnography, and political pamphlets also draw on these resources of fiction. In addition, it contributes to critical perspectives on how literary fiction engages with assumptions about the binary opposition between the state and the individual (the subject for instance, of the volume Contemporary Literature and the State edited by Matthew Hart and Jim Hansen). In Chapter One, I read The Education of Henry Adams alongside Adams’s Tahitian Memoirs and his letters from the Pacific as responses to the formulas of significant action and civic character encoded in Euro-American imperial public discourse. Chapter Two connects the delegation of subjective agency in Henry James’s The Ambassadors to the novel’s political edges, in large part, through an analysis of its peculiar management of scenes of privacy and publicness. Finally, Chapter Three considers the language of John Maynard Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of the Peace, particularly the movement between its seemingly paradoxical insistence on both occulted agency and black letter literalism, through Keynes’s attention to the mediating work of conventions - across genres, customs, and value.

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