Representing Quakers in American Culture, 1650–1950
Publication Year: 2009
Portrayals of Quakers—from dangerous and anarchic figures in seventeenth-century theological debates to moral exemplars in twentieth-century theater and film (Grace Kelly in High Noon, for example)—reflected attempts by writers, speechmakers, and dramatists to grapple with the troubling social issues of the day. As foils to more widely held religious, political, and moral values, members of the Society of Friends became touchstones in national discussions about pacifism, abolition, gender equality, consumer culture, and modernity.
Spanning four centuries, Imaginary Friends takes readers through the shifting representations of Quaker life in a wide range of literary and visual genres, from theological debates, missionary work records, political theory, and biography to fiction, poetry, theater, and film. It illustrates the ways that, during the long history of Quakerism in the United States, these “imaginary” Friends have offered a radical model of morality, piety, and anti-modernity against which the evolving culture has measured itself.
Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book Award
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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This project was enabled in part through research leave and publication support granted by the English Department and the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University. Numerous colleagues and graduate students at Auburn University read or discussed sections of the manuscript with me while providing valuable advice, intellectual stimulation, administrative guidance, moral support, and friendship. ...
Introduction: National Identity, Representation,and Genre
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Representations of Quakers in the American cultural archive are the main object of my attention in this study, and it is through analysis of these representations that variant rhetorics of American values, some of them quite different from the forms of discourse that historically have dominated the public sphere, can be discerned and assessed.1 Depictions ...
1 Quaker Religion in Colonial New England
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Descended from a populist spiritual tradition that emerged in the 1640s and organized by Protestant visionaries from the lower to middling classes in Northern England, Quakers in seventeenth-century New England were among the most radically subversive religious dissenters in colonial America.1 As participants in the broad and complex ...
2 Political Theory and Quaker Community in the Early Republic
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In examining the lives of eighteenth-century British Quakers, the historian Phyllis Mack has observed that the most vital tension in the lives of Friends during the period was arranged around an opposition between the increasingly powerful modern values spawned by the Enlightenment and the strongly mystical (and thus essentially ...
3 Chronicles of Friendship: Quaker Historiography in the Early Republic
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For the first century and a half of their existence, early Quakers in England and America were anything but passive in the face of a steady onslaught of books, broadsides, pamphlets, and articles decrying their religious beliefs and practices. During the early decades of the movement, Quakers and their sympathizers mobilized every aspect ...
4 Quaker Biography in Transatlantic Context
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In the early years of the English Quaker movement, especially during the decades immediately following its founding by George Fox and his allies in the mid-seventeenth century, an intense pamphlet war ensued in which numerous vicious attacks against Quakerism were published by those concerned to prevent Friends’ activities from disrupting the prevailing religious orthodoxy. ...
5 Representing Quakers in American Fiction
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Nathaniel Hawthorne was among the most prominent of antebellum American writers to observe the seriousness with which Quakers could approach their reading lives. In 1849, just before completing his masterwork, The Scarlet Letter (1850), Hawthorne received an unexpected visitor at his Concord home. She was, Hawthorne records ...
6 Staging Quakerism: Theater and Cinema
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The use of Quaker characters on stage as stock characters had become a commonplace almost from the earliest years of the establishment of the Society of Friends in the middle of the seventeenth century, and deployment as both comic and serious types in the theater in many ways resembles the use to which Quaker stock types were used in fiction of the same period. ...
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Any cultural study that presumes to survey a period of three centuries in American life, as this one has done, is bound to have a large number of weaknesses and shortcomings, even when its focus is relatively narrow and concentrates on a small religious group. Another potential problem is associated with how the scholar of religion is situated ...
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Page Count: 285
Publication Year: 2009