In the hands of savages: representations of female Barbary captivity in Anglo-American narratives, 1722-1818

Pal, Julie, Department of English, University of Virginia
Rust, Marion, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia
Lott, Eric, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Virginia
McInnis, Maurie, AS-History, University of Virginia

This project examines how tropes of female Barbary captivity functions as indices of the historical and cultural moments that they were conceived in. Fictional and nonfictional plots that prominently feature the adventures of female captives in Barbary have attracted scant scholarly attention. When they have they have, critics have deemed these women's interactions with Barbary meaningful only as they relate to some negotiation of their sexuality. It is then my contention that women's experiences in Barbary do not necessarily begin and end with their sexual doings and misdoings in Barbary and neither do the meanings and significances that these texts generate. Instead, in my formulations these representations of female Barbary captivity are ruminations on larger political and social issues in surprisingly diverse, disunifying and imaginative ways. Works like The Female Captive (1769), Slaves in Algiers (1794), The Life and Amorous Adventures of Lucinda (1722), Noble Slaves (1722) and Young Carolinians (1818) tackle subjects that include America's acceptance of returning loyalists, class politics in nineteenth century South Carolina and the legitimacy of England's colonialist claims on Barbary. Women's interaction with the trope of Barbary captivity has been seen as changeless, regardless of their cultural or social affiliations. They have only been admitted into the discourse on Barbary captivity as far as their stories have been seen as interfacing with the sexual manners and morals of their captors. This dissertation develops a new perspective on the relationship between these women and their captors by locating these utterances in their historical and political contexts. My readings reveal that these tales of female Barbary captivity have served as relevant and timely meaning making activities in diverse communities over centuries. They do not evoke a consistent picture of women's concerns, needs and interests, but instead present a plurality of discourses that both subvert and support the dominant idioms of their home communities.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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