The Captive's Position

The Captive's Position: Female Narrative, Male Identity, and Royal Authority in Colonial New England

Teresa A. Toulouse
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fhwz8
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    The Captive's Position
    Book Description:

    Why do narratives of Indian captivity emerge in New England between 1682 and 1707 and why are these texts, so centrally concerned with women's experience, supported and even written by a powerful group of Puritan ministers? In The Captive's Position, Teresa Toulouse argues for a new interpretation of the captivity narrative-one that takes into account the profound shifts in political and social authority and legitimacy that occurred in New England at the end of the seventeenth century. While North American narratives of Indian captivity had been written before this period by French priests and other European adventurers, those stories had focused largely on Catholic conversions and martyrdoms or male strategies for survival among the Indians. In contrast, the New England texts represented a colonial Protestant woman who was separated brutally from her family but who demonstrated qualities of religious acceptance, humility, and obedience until she was eventually returned to her own community. Toulouse explores how the female captive's position came to resonate so powerfully for traditional male elites in the second and third generation of the Massachusetts colony. Threatened by ongoing wars with Indians and French as well as by a range of royal English interventions in New England political and cultural life, figures such as Increase Mather, Cotton Mather, and John Williams perceived themselves to be equally challenged by religious and social conflicts within New England. By responding to and employing popular representations of female captivity, they were enabled to express their ambivalence toward the world of their fathers and toward imperial expansion and thereby to negotiate their own complicated sense of personal and cultural identity. Examining the captivity narratives of Mary Rowlandson, Hannah Dustan, Hannah Swarton, and John Williams (who comes to stand in for the female captive), Toulouse asserts the need to read these gendered texts as cultural products that variably engage, shape, and confound colonial attitudes toward both Europe and the local scene in Massachusetts. In doing so, The Captive's Position offers a new story of the rise and breakdown of orthodox Puritan captivities and a meditation on the relationship between dreams of authority and historical change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0367-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Chapter 1 Female Captivity, Royal Authority, and Male Identity in Colonial New England, 1682–1707
    (pp. 1-20)

    This study begins with a historical question: why do narratives of Indian captivity appear in New England between 1682 and 1707? During this period a new kind of narrative emerged about colonial women who had been ripped from their families by “savage” men and forced to undergo extraordinary physical and spiritual trials in the wilderness. While North American narratives of Indian captivity had been written before this period by French priests and Spanish and other European adventurers, those stories had focused largely on Catholic conversions and martyrdoms or male strategies of survival among the Indians and self-promotion in the mother...

  4. Chapter 2 The Sovereignty and Goodness of God in 1682: Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative and the “Fathers’” Defense
    (pp. 21-44)

    In February of 1676, during the second year of a continuing war between New English colonials and a combined force of Indians, who sought through one last effort to cripple the colonists and to drive them from their lands, Mary White Rowlandson, the wife of Joseph Rowlandson, minister of the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts, was taken captive by a group of Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Narragansett Indians.¹ Freed after eleven weeks, she lived in Boston for the next year and there, according to most, composed a narrative of her captivity, which was published four times in 1682, in both Boston and...

  5. Chapter 3 Deference and Difference: Female Captivity and Male Ambivalence
    (pp. 45-72)

    Ministerial support for Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative in this period points to a political, social, and cultural defense of the English-born first generation that will promote and sustain certain second-generation men’s power and legitimacy by helping them to frame outside threats, chastise inner challengers, and even to organize for action against both. Yet, comprehensive as it may appear, this reading fails to provide a culturally satisfactory understanding of particular second-generation ministers’ attraction for the representation of the woman captive. To complicate this attraction one need only point to their own awareness of other difficulties involved in rhetorically yoking their own...

  6. Chapter 4 The Uses of Female Humiliation: Judea Capta, Hannah Dustan, and Hannah Swarton in the 1690s
    (pp. 73-99)

    The position of the female captive as represented in the Rowlandson text is used to express and sustain the desire of certain second-generation men simultaneously to identify loyally with the “fathers” and to separate from the first generation. As their 1682 support for Rowlandson’s narrative suggests, the position could be turned toward local conflicts and competitions (Indian or colonial) and toward international imperial challenges (English and, later, French). In both cases, the position of the passive colonial woman, who must endure and depend on rescue from others, is used to shape and to maintain ambivalent attitudes toward fatherly political and...

  7. Chapter 5 Hannah Dustan’s Bodies: Domestic Violence and Third-Generation Male Identity in Cotton Mather’s Decennium Luctuosum
    (pp. 100-119)

    In Decennium Luctuosum, the “Sorrowful Decade” (1699), Cotton Mather self-consciously turns to history to describe and explain colonial engagements with the French and their Indian allies dating from 1688 to 1698. Clearly drawing on Increase Mather’s example in his Brief History of the Warr with the Indians in New England, Cotton Mather attempts to frame an interpretation of his own generation’s intermittent wars with the French and their Indian allies. Hannah Dustan’s tale appears almost at the very end of Decennium Luctuosum, the twentieth-sixth of thirty selections of varying lengths called “articles.” Sandwiched between loosely chronological accounts of other captivities,...

  8. Chapter 6 Returning to Zion: Cultural Competition and John Williams’s The Redeemed Captive
    (pp. 120-140)

    In Article XXVII of Decennium Luctuosum, Cotton Mather addresses the “last Bloody Action” of his history, a foiled attempt made on the town of Deerfield in 1698. Deerfield, notes Mather, “has been an Extraordinary Instance of Courage in keeping their station,” owing, he says, to “their worthy Pastor Mr. John Williams,” who “deserves the Thanks of all this Province, for Encouraging them all the ways Imaginable to Stand their ground.”¹ Williams, like the one other minister whom the history praises, Shubael Dummer of York, keeps his flock together as a community even under assault. Dummer’s fate, however, is to be...

  9. Chapter 7 The Seduction of the “Father(s)”
    (pp. 141-161)

    Like Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, finally published in 1702, John Williams employs many of the terms of traditional New English self-understanding, but he alters one of the major structures and one of the major representations through which such self-understanding had been sustained since 1682—the narrative of the orthodox female captive. Central to this move that at once connects and disconnects his text to other Mather-supported captivity narratives and to political and cultural conflicts described in the last chapter is the way in which Williams structures captivity as less about bodily afflictions and physical threat from the Indians—although...

  10. Coda: Dux Faemina Facta/Dux Faemina Facti
    (pp. 162-170)

    Although Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana was announced for London publication in 1697, it was not mailed to England until 1700, at the height of Cotton and Increase Mather’s battle with John Leverett and his protégé, Benjamin Colman, over the founding of a new church in Brattle Street.¹ While rage and the need to comment on Brattle Street’s English-influenced innovations in traditional Congregationalist Church practice might have delayed Cotton Mather’s sending off the manuscript, the coincidence of the year of the Magnalia’s final publication date, 1702, with the accession of Joseph Dudley to Massachusetts’s royal governorship must have seemed providentially...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-204)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-222)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 223-225)