ENGL 349

Captivity and American Identity

Beginning with the genre?s origins in colonial America, this course historicizes and contextualizes the captivity narrative?a category first constructed around white men and women living among Indians, or kidnapped by Barbary pirates and held captive in Africa?in relation to the emergence of ideological American-ness in the colonial and early national periods. The course investigates the rise and function of emblematic captivity stories like those of Mary Rowlandson, Elizabeth Hanson, and Mercy Short as they constituted a particular racial and cultural notion of white identity in contrast to a ?savage? Other. In addition to such conventional readings, however, this course also incorporates works by Native Americans (such as William Apess and Zitkala-?a) and African Americans (David Walker, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs) who frame their experiences with white America as a kind of captivity, in order to examine how their works complicate the ideological assumptions of the genre and offer contradictory perspectives on the nature of captivity, race, and identity. Different iterations of the course focus primarily on historical work or may consider as well contemporary manifestations of the genre.