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Abstract

In this paper, I examine the use of well-known American landmarks in Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles (2010-2012), a set of Children’s Fantasy novels that place Ancient Egyptian mythology in the modern world. With reference to the author’s more famous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (2005-2009), this essay focuses on specific American landscapes in the first novel of the Egyptian mythology-inspired series, The Red Pyramid, arguing that Riordan’s use of Ancient Egyptian-inspired structures reflects the overall ethos of the text. On one level, Riordan’s use of modern American landmarks signals that new stories using old myths have just as much power as the originals and that renewal is inevitable. On another, Riordan’s particular settings assert America’s power as the inheritor of ancient myths, making the American landscape an appropriate tableau upon which to enact Ancient Egyptian stories. The text’s matrix of American landmarks, some modern and some from the 19th century, taps into America’s long history of appropriating Ancient Egyptian forms and symbols; however, the text does little to acknowledge the layers between the source myth and the contemporary landscape, collapsing decades and centuries. I will show that, rather than questioning the foundations of “Western Civilization” within this “old versus new” paradigm and complicating the dissemination of culture and power over time, Riordan’s novels instead use American settings to privilege America’s status as the inheritor of perceived European cultural dominance, emphasizing American cultural forms and structures that re-entrench a brand of American cultural dominance ultimately rooted in nineteenth-century Egyptomania.

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