Captivity and Sentiment: Cultural Exchange in American by Michelle Burnham

By Michelle Burnham

In a brand new interpretation and synthsis of hugely renowned 18th and nineteenth century ganres, Burnham examines the literature of captivity and gives a worthwhile redescription of the ambivilent origins of the USA nationwide narrative.

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Additional resources for Captivity and Sentiment: Cultural Exchange in American Literature, 1682-1861 (Reencounters with Colonialism: New Perspectives on the Americas)

Sample text

She lived and traveled with her Algonquin captors in the New England wilderness for nearly three months, and the narrative she wrote upon her return records her extraordinary experience of cultural contact. For the most part, that contact was characterized by perpetual conflict, for the captive was daily forced to confront the incommensurability between the English culture she left behind and the Algonquin one she was forced to inhabit. This Puritan Englishwoman's extended habitation within the radically alien culture of her Indian captors necessarily makes her narrative a history of transculturation and of a subjectivity under revision.

Thus, a novel like Uncle Tom's Cabin, she contends, focuses on the home merely as "the prerequisite of world conquest" (143); no less than contemporary domestic advice manuals, Stowe's novel harbors an "imperialistic drive" to "coloniz[e] the world in the name of the 'family state' under the leadership of Christian women'' (144). 10 However "American" a novel like Uncle Tom's Cabin may be, for example, to isolate it within national borders is to miss its colonizing transcontinental reach into Liberia and the implications of that reach for abolitionism and racial ideology within the United States (implications examined in chapter 5).

Such contradictions in turn carve out transgressive spaces that resist definition by or accommodation within either Algonquin or English cultural paradigms, spaces that therefore unwittingly escape dominant Puritan ideology and theology. The dangers and possibilities of cultural exchange within the colonial contact zone would generate literary and political strategies associated with the secular genre of the novel, within whose sentimental discourse scenarios of captivity and escape would continue to be explored and exploited.

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