Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Alyce Miller

Committee Member

Wendy Nielsen


In the summer of 1843, New Englander Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) set off with friends on a westward journey that would take her through the areas of the Great Lakes, Illinois and Wisconsin. Fuller kept copious notes during her trip, and during the eight months after her return home, she revised and enhanced her text and published it as a book, entitled Summer on the Lakes, In 1843.

Fuller’s book reflects a myriad of influences, especially from those most known for their Romantic writings. Jacques Jean Rousseau’s ideas of “The Noble Savage,” Edmund Burke’s theory of the sublime, Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s scientific studies, entitled Farbenlehre (The Color Theory, 1810), and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s description of the ideal American character are some of the influences from which Fuller draws her ideas.

Through Fuller’s vast knowledge of language, literature, history, and science, she creatively and reflectively utilizes these and other Romantic influences to discuss two major subjects in her text: the treatment of Native Americans who are being forced to evacuate the Great Lakes area, and the character of the American immigrant that Fuller believes would be best-suited to replace the disappearing Indian population.

This thesis argues that Fuller had already accepted the idea of the “Vanishing American” before she set off on her journey. Although she evokes sympathy from her reader for their treatment by U.S. expansionist mandates, Fuller’s text reveals an underlying desire to have access to an unpopulated landscape upon which she could design a new, Euro-American population of inhabitants. These newly-arrived immigrants would be superior to those already living in the Eastern United States, according to Fuller’s standards, as they would have a greater respect for the land, a better understanding of the valuable contributions and rights of women, and a willingness to live communally with others on the Western frontier.

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