This essay traces the ideas underlying Jane Addams’s theory of cosmopolitanism from a variety of her early works. In these works Addams meditates on the generosity of industrial-era laborers to imagine relations of social responsibility that extend beyond familiar ties; she appreciates the precariousness of these workers and their outlook. Her theory has a distinctly literary quality. Across a range of social contexts she uses the figure of Cordelia to trope the idea of answering to the world rather than to local authority. Parable, evident throughout her work, especially in Twenty Years at Hull-House, is one of her favored modes of expression because it so capably conveys the blended generosity and vulnerability of her cosmopolitan outlook.

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