Caught between Worlds

Caught between Worlds: British Captivity Narratives in Fact and Fiction

Joe Snader
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Caught between Worlds
    Book Description:

    The captivity narrative has always been a literary genre associated with America. Joe Snader argues, however, that captivity narratives emerged much earlier in Britain, coinciding with European colonial expansion, the development of anthropology, and the rise of liberal political thought. Stories of Europeans held captive in the Middle East, America, Africa, and Southeast Asia appeared in the British press from the late sixteenth through the late eighteenth centuries, and captivity narratives were frequently featured during the early development of the novel. Until the mid-eighteenth century, British examples of the genre outpaced their American cousins in length, frequency of publication, attention to anthropological detail, and subjective complexity. Using both new and canonical texts, Snader shows that foreign captivity was a favorite topic in eighteenth-century Britain. An adaptable and expansive genre, these narratives used set plots and stereotypes originating in Mediterranean power struggles and relocated in a variety of settings, particularly eastern lands. The narratives' rhetorical strategies and cultural assumptions often grew out of centuries of religious strife and coincided with Europe's early modern military ascendancy.Caught Between Worldspresents a broad, rich, and flexible definition of the captivity narrative, placing the American strain in its proper place within the tradition as a whole. Snader, having assembled the first bibliography of British captivity narratives, analyzes both factual texts and a large body of fictional works, revealing the ways they helped define British identity and challenged Britons to rethink the place of their nation in the larger world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4953-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The early modem era witnessed the birth, flowering, and metamorphosis of many Western literary genres. Among these is one that literary scholars have called the captivity narrative, the text devoted extensively or exclusively to documenting a real experience of subjugation in a foreign land. Today, however, we do not think of the captivity narrative as an early modem genre, but rather as an American one, largely because literary scholars have defined the captivity genre in terms of Anglo-American captives and Native American captors. But the captivity narrative, like the novel or the encyclopedia, is a genre whose roots stretch back...

  6. Part 1: Narratives of Fact
    • One Travel, Travail, and the British Captivity Tradition
      (pp. 13-61)

      In 1567, according to the narrative that bears his name, Job Hortop’s quiet life as a powder maker ended when English seamen pressed him to join what would later become known as one of the great Elizabethan voyages of trade and plunder, led by John Hawkins and Francis Drake. The 1590 text that records Hortop’s experiences follows the voyage from Africa to America, as the Englishmen weather storms, seize the ships of other European powers, pursue trade and slavery in Africa, and finally raid some strongholds on the Spanish main. But this account of English glory comes to an end...

    • Two The Captive as Hero
      (pp. 62-93)

      Just as the generic signals and formal structures of the Anglophone captivity narrative took their primary shape in the London print marketplace before migrating to American shores, many of the genre’s common patterns of characterization emerged initially within the global context of British colonial travel before reaching their most prominent development within American settings. When defined through its earliest American exemplars, the captivity narrative often seems a genre particularly given to exploiting a binaristic rhetoric of “self” and “other,” where “self” refers to the radically individuated subject of Western discursive authority, while “other” refers to those objectified within that writing...

    • Three The Perils and the Powers of Cultural Conversion
      (pp. 94-124)

      If the captivity narrative is a genre particularly disposed towards a binary rhetoric opposing self and other, this rhetoric always overwrites an experience of necessary intimacy between captive and captor, or at least between the captive and the alien culture of the captor. Many British captives entered systems of household servitude rather than gang labor, systems encouraging familial intimacy rather than hierarchical distance. Even if a narrative does not acknowledge such distinctions, the captive’s situation as a household servant often produces moments of cultural intimacy that sit somewhat uneasily amidst a rhetorical frame stressing liberty and oppression. Even when a...

  7. Part 2: Narratives of Fiction
    • Four Mastering Captivity
      (pp. 127-171)

      Published in 1729 and 1739, respectively, the lightly fictionalized narratives of Drury and Pellow entered the English press at the close of a period that witnessed the rise of the captivity plot in English fiction. The first important group of English captivity fictions, whether set in domestic or foreign locations, appeared during the 1720s, with a sudden burst of novels based wholly or partly on Oriental captivity. In this crucial period of expansion and consolidation for both the British nation and the English novel, Penelope Aubin and William Rufus Chetwood combined to create a set of highly popular fictions that...

    • Five Resisting Americans in British Novels of American Captivity
      (pp. 172-223)

      The scholarly tendency to assimilate British captivity narratives to American patterns becomes particularly problematic in the case of eighteenth-century British novels that include episodes of American captivity. The most obvious problem results from chronology, since London novels began to incorporate American episodes as early as 1720, long before such novelists of the early American republic as Ann Eliza Bleecker and Charles Brockden Brown turned to captivity for what critics have often celebrated as “uniquely American material” in the formation of a national literature.¹ Another problem results because British episodes imagined the American captivity experience according to a pattern that differed...

    • Six Utopian Captivities and other “African” Paradoxes
      (pp. 224-269)

      Nothing could more fully illustrate the close connection between classical liberalism and the captivity genre than liberal utopias that draw heavily from the plot structures of captivity. Three prominent English utopian novels of the eighteenth century develop plots in which an experience of captivity under an African people provides an important moment of crisis and resolution in a protagonist’s progress towards utopia. Captivity plotting provides a frame tale for utopia in the first of these novels, Simon Berington’sAdventures of Sigr Gaudentio di Lucca, as its protagonist describes how enslavement in Turkish Egypt led to his adoption into an isolated...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 270-290)

    In 1759 Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas revisited the same fantastic geography explored by Berington twenty years earlier and revisited once again by Cumberland at century’s end. But Johnson’s plot, characters, and agenda ran almost directly counter to those of his utopian predecessor and successor. The most obvious contrasts were, first, Johnson’s creation of an African dystopia rather than an African utopia, and, second, his choice of Abyssinian rather than European protagonists. Although his evocation of setting partially reflected his research into the European literature describing Abyssinia and Egypt, his handling of the material involved so many echoes and reversals of Berington’s...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 291-307)
  10. Primary Bibliography
    (pp. 308-319)
  11. Secondary Bibliography
    (pp. 320-328)
  12. Index
    (pp. 329-339)