Towards a transatlantic aesthetic : immigration, translation, and mourning in the seventeenth century

Woude, Joanne van der, Department of English, University of Virginia
Rust, Marion, Department of English, University of Virginia
Fowler, Elizabeth, Department of English, University of Virginia
Brickhouse, Anna, Department of English, University of Virginia
Ray, Benjamin C., Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

My dissertation examines how the experiences of diaspora and intercultural contact shaped aesthetics in the transatlantic seventeenth century. I argue that when the cultural productions of early transatlantic immigrants and Native American communities are read within larger networks of exchange and representation, they reveal patterns of colonial adaptation and transformation. By reading the expressions of English, French, and German immigrants, as well as Algonquin, Mahican, and Delaware Indians, I aim to make explicit the diverse and multilingual reality of colonial North America. My comparative considerations of colonists' and Native performances show a convergence of discourses and depictions that creates a transatlantic aesthetic.

My chapters consider three structured ritualized behaviors: telling, singing, and mourning, which loosely correspond to the generic categories of autobiography, psalmody, and elegy. I begin by studying the tropes of physical distress in New England conversion narratives, which inscribe the trauma of immigration onto the body politic. Algonquin conversion narratives reconfigure this emphasis on corporeal affliction and thereby seem to sanctify scenes of Native suffering. Like the Puritan and Indian confessions, the accounts of French Huguenots also render the effects of displacement and violence, although they do so through irony and sarcasm. My considerations of singing open with the Bay Psalm Book, which puts forth a new notion of spiritual translation and poetic beauty by stressing literal fidelity and formal regularity. Moravian missionaries develop a more flexible and intercultural practice of congregational singing by including Mahican and Delaware verse in their performances of polyglot harmony. Finally, I argue that the proliferation of mourning materials, in particular broadside funeral elegies, in colonial New England indicates the communal anxiety and instability caused by the dual pressures of immigration and intercultural contact. These six instances of literary and cultural adaptation in the colonial contact zone thus reveal larger processes of aesthetic change and transformation. "Towards a Transatlantic Aesthetic" not only posits a new model for understanding early America, but ultimately investigates what happens when communities migrate, different peoples meet, and cultures collide.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-15 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:35.

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