Cowboys And Victorians: The American West in English Victorian Literature

Ashley Nicole Sufflé Robinson, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


The nineteenth century marked a critical moment for the United States. The nation’s

westward expansion not only gave rise to the American frontier, it also fundamentally shaped the country’s national identity. Dime novels, penny dreadfuls, and other adventure narratives

imbued the American frontier with significant ideological power, which in turn resulted in the

creation of the American myth. This project examines the appearance of the American West in English Victorian literature against the emerging mythological narrative of the American

frontier. Ultimately, a textual analysis of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Francis Hodgson Burnett’s A

Fair Barbarian, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” and A

Study in Scarlet reveals how the American frontier characters function as ideological transport, exporting the American myth and its ideologies to England. By closely considering the way that the American West and American frontier characters function in Victorian novels, scholars can trace how American national identity begins to influence English cultural norms, marking the beginning of American cultural globalization.