Cultural Orphans in America
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
This book is about orphans, real and imaginary, in early America and what their actual treatment and textual representation signify about cultural values. This book is also about how the past is the present, how the legacy of early America — of the Puritans, the revolutionaries, the Founding Fathers, and the leaders of the new republic—has shaped the "family values" that are a social and political touchstone in our culture today. ...
CHAPTER 1: The Puritans as Orphans
The most important secular institution in Puritan culture was the family. The family was not only the primary source of stability and security but a model for social and political institutions that incorporated its patriarchal and hierarchical structure. The family model also influenced the nature of interaction with other groups and cultures. Despite the earlier belief that the Puritan...
CHAPTER 2: The Puritans as Aggressors
In terms of their social attitudes, the Puritans were marked by nothing so much as their insularity, their antagonistic, exclusionary policy toward those whom they viewed as different. While this policy devolved logically from aspects of Puritan tradition and history, the colonial experience had the effect of calcifying the hermetic social order and encouraging hostile attitudes toward outsiders. ...
CHAPTER 3: The Revolution
Following the Great Migration, the next major episode in American history to inspire an effusion of family imagery was the American Revolution. The rupture between England and America revived old memories of the traumatic separation between parent and child and sharpened the distinction between children and orphans, those who belonged to the family of the new republic...
CHAPTER 4: Tales of Captivity and Adoption
As the previous chapter explained, the xenophobia that manifested itself at the end of the eighteenth century was inseparable from racist attitudes toward the Indians. For the new nation struggling in the aftermath of the Revolution to define the meaning of America, the Indians represented a threat from within whereas the immigrants represented a threat from without. Both also served...
CHAPTER 5: The Rise of the Republic
Metaphorically speaking, the Revolution entailed a reconfiguration of the family in which sons replaced fathers, first through violent overthrow and then through generational succession. With the formation of the republic, the notion of citizenship became fundamental, and the Founding Fathers distinguished between natural children who belonged by birthright to the family of the republic and unadoptable orphans, ...
CHAPTER 6: Sentimental Strategies in "Orphan Tales"
Because orphans were such a ubiquitous and disturbing presence in mid-nineteenth-century American cities, it is hardly surprising that they figure so prominently in sentimental fiction. What is surprising, however, is that fictional orphans are so unrepresentative of society's real orphans, who were stationary, as opposed to upwardly mobile, members of the underclass. From a cultural standpoint, a literary work can be as important for those aspects of social reality it does not portray as for those it does. ...
CHAPTER 7:The Negro as Ultimate Orphan
Negroes, like immigrants, were left out of sentimental fiction just as they were left out of the family of the republic. At best, they appear briefly in novels as slaves or servants, and their function tends to be either decorative or comic. In general, they are portrayed as stereotypes rather than fully developed characters. There are, however, a few instances in which Negroes appear as orphans, and these illustrate how the separation of slaves not only from their own families but from the human family reflects the insidious relationship between race and class. ...
Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008
OCLC Number: 44958046
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