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Piety and Dissent
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For pious converts to Christianity in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New England, all reality was shaped by religious devotion and biblical text. It is therefore not surprising that earnest believers who found themselves marginalized by their race or sex relied on their faith to reconcile the tension between the spiritual experience of rebirth and the social ordeal of exclusion and injustice. In Piety and Dissent, Eileen Razzari Elrod examines the religious autobiographies of six early Americans who represented various sorts of marginality: John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano, and Jarena Lee, all of African or African American heritage; Samson Occom (Mohegan) and William Apess (Pequot); and Abigail Abbott Bailey, a white woman who was subjected to extreme domestic violence. Through close readings of these personal narratives, Elrod uncovers the complex rhetorical strategies employed by pious outsiders to challenge the particular kinds of oppression each experienced. She identifies recurrent ideals and images drawn from Scripture and Protestant tradition—parables of liberation, rage, justice, and opposition to authority—that allowed them to see resistance as a religious act and, more than that, imbued them with a sense of agency. What the life stories of these six individuals reveal, according to Elrod, is that conventional Christianity in early America was not the hegemonic force that church leaders at the time imagined, and that many people since have believed it to be. Nor was there a clear distinction between personal piety and religious, social, and political resistance. To understand fully the role of religion in the early period of American letters, we must rethink some of our most fundamental assumptions about the function of Christian faith in the context of individual lives.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page
  2. p. iii
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  1. Copyright Page
  2. p. iv
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  1. Dedication
  2. p. v
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  1. Table of Contents
  2. p. vii
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  1. List of Illustrations
  2. p. ix
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Chapter 1: Margins and Centers, New and Old Narrations: Biblical Voices, Great Awakening Christianity, and American Autobiographical Traditions
  2. pp. 1-20
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  1. Chapter 2: “I Did Not Make Myself So . . .” : Samson Occom and American Religious Autobiography
  2. pp. 21-37
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  1. Chapter 3: John Marrant, John Smith, Jesus: Borders, Tangles, and Knots in Marrant’s 1785 Narrative
  2. pp. 38-61
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  1. Chapter 4: Moses and the Egyptian: Religious Authority in Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative
  2. pp. 62-84
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  1. Chapter 5: Gender, Christian Suffering, and the Minister’s Voice: Submission and Agency in Abigail Abbot Bailey’s Memoirs
  2. pp. 85-116
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  1. Chapter 6: Devotion and Dissent: Jarena Lee’s Rhetoric of Conversion and Call
  2. pp. 117-145
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  1. Chapter 7: Finding a Way in the Forest: The Religious Discourse of Race and Justice in the Autobiographies of William Apess
  2. pp. 146-170
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  1. Chapter 8: Religious Imperatives, Democratic Voices, and Autobiographical Preoccupations
  2. pp. 171-186
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 187-200
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  1. Works Cited
  2. pp. 201-216
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  1. Index [Includes About the Author]
  2. pp. 217-231
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  1. Back Cover
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