Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities

Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities

by Andrew Newman
Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities

Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities

by Andrew Newman


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Presenting an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to colonial America's best-known literary genre, Andrew Newman analyzes depictions of reading, writing, and recollecting texts in Indian captivity narratives. While histories of literacy and colonialism have emphasized the experiences of Native Americans, as students in missionary schools or as parties to treacherous treaties, captivity narratives reveal what literacy meant to colonists among Indians. Colonial captives treasured the written word in order to distinguish themselves from their Native captors and to affiliate with their distant cultural communities. Their narratives suggest that Indians recognized this value, sometimes with benevolence: repeatedly, they presented colonists with books.

In this way and others, Scriptures, saintly lives, and even Shakespeare were introduced into diverse experiences of colonial captivity. What other scholars have understood more simply as textual parallels, Newman argues instead may reflect lived allegories, the identification of one's own unfolding story with the stories of others. In an authoritative, wide-ranging study that encompasses the foundational New England narratives, accounts of martyrdom and cultural conversion in New France and Mohawk country in the 1600s, and narratives set in Cherokee territory and the Great Lakes region during the late eighteenth century, Newman opens up old tales to fresh, thought-provoking interpretations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469643465
Publisher: Omohundro Institute and UNC Press
Publication date: 11/05/2018
Series: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 236
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Andrew Newman is associate professor of English at Stony Brook University.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This especially timely work distills a decade of groundbreaking research in early American book studies and provides a new approach for reading captivity narratives, a genre long held to be the wellspring of a truly 'American' literature. Newman fruitfully reimagines early American stories of captivity as 'literacy events,' demonstrating how this genre continually reenacts the 'primal scene' of American colonialism as an allegory pitting story against discourse, and narrative present against typological past.—Phillip H. Round, University of Iowa

In this fascinating study, Andrew Newman explores how captives ranging from Mary Rowlandson to John Marrant drew meaning from literacy and literature as they reflected on their own experiences and used citations and allusions to interpret those experiences for a broader audience. Historians will be intrigued by Newman's insightful new take on an essential topic in early American studies.—Christina Snyder, Pennsylvania State University

With clear-eyed skepticism and wry prose, Andrew Newman compellingly reads allegory, typology, allusion, and onomastics, not as mere figures of speech, but as historical agents in the shaping of colonialism and its enactors. At a time when critics and historians are rethinking the very tenets of scholarly judgment, Allegories of Encounter shows how much is to be gained from revisiting an earlier era, when literary allusion itself constituted a sometimes wishful, sometimes violent act of cultural boundary-making. Captivity didn't just yield literature in the colonial era—it was a literary experience for all concerned.—Matt Cohen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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