Outsiders and Authorship in Early America
Publication Year: 2013
To gain access to print, outsiders collaborated with amanuenses and editors, inserted their stories into popular genres and cheap media, tapped into existing social and religious networks, and sought sponsors and patrons. They wrote individually, collaboratively, and even corporately, but writing for them was almost always an act of connection. Disparate levels of literacy did not necessarily entail subordination on the part of the lessliterate collaborator. Even the minimally literate and the illiterate understood the potential for print to be life changing, and outsiders shrewdly employed strategies to assert themselves within collaborative dynamics.
Empowering Words covers an array of outsiders including artisans; the minimally literate; the poor, indentured, or enslaved; and racial minorities. By focusing not only on New England, the traditional stronghold of early American literacy, but also on southern towns such as Williamsburg and Charleston, Weyler limns a more expansive map of early American authorship
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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I have incurred many debts while working on this book. I am truly fortunate in my colleagues in the English Department at the University of North Caro-lina at Greensboro. Th e Americanist faculty—Tony Cuda, Sally Ann Fergu-son, Karen Kilcup, Christian Moraru, Noelle Morrissette, Mark Rifkin, Scott Romine, and María Sánchez—off ered encouragement and enlightening con-...
INTRODUCTION: Outsider Authorship in Early America
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Just eight years before Phillis Wheatley’s image appeared on the cover of Bickerstaff ’s Boston Almanack, for the Year of Our Redemption, 1782, celebrating her as Boston’s most famous poet, another enslaved Phillis languished in Vir-ginia under much less fortuitous conditions of servitude. An advertisement that ran for several weeks in the January 1774 Virginia Gazette, edited by Cle-...
ONE: Mourning New England: Phillis Wheatley and the Broadside Elegy
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Phillis Wheatley is the most renowned of the fi gures in Empowering Words, crossing and recrossing traditional disciplinary boundaries among American, African American, and British literature and women’s studies, just as Wheatley herself traversed the Atlantic, moving from Africa to America, to England, and back to America. Th e circulation of Wheatley’s physical body, her texts, ...
TWO: An “Englishman under English Colours”: Briton Hammon, John Marrant, and the Fungibility of Christian Faith
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Th e varied strategies that Phillis Wheatley employed to navigate her way into the Anglo- American literary scene—sophisticated mastery of the English lan-guage, support from powerful patrons, carefully planned literacy events, em-phasis on her evangelical faith, deployment of the wildly popular Christian elegy, and use of the inexpensive medium of the broadside and later a poetry ...
THREE: “Common, Plain, Every Day Talk” from “An Uncommon Quarter”: Samson Occom and the Language of the Execution Sermon
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...“What folly and madness is it in me,” Samson Occom asks, “to suff er any thing of mine to appear in print, to expose my ignorance to the world?” Occom was neither a fool nor ignorant. Instead, in the preface to his best- selling 1772 A Ser-mon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian, he models the humility typical of eighteenth- century prefaces, especially those written by outsiders.1 ...
FOUR: Becoming “The American Heroine”: Deborah Sampson, Collaboration, and Performance
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While Briton Hammon and John Marrant relied on collaboration to produce their captivity narratives, Deborah Sampson, a female Revolutionary War sol-dier, took collaboration to new levels with a biography, an address, and poetry, even though only one of these texts bears her name as author. Consequently, she challenges our understanding of what constitutes authorship, especially as ...
FIVE: “To Proceed with Spirit”: Clementina Rind and the Virginia Gazette
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Th e desperate fi nancial need motivating Deborah Sampson and so many other hopeful participants in late eighteenth- century print is poignant, especially given our hindsight that it would be diffi cult for Americans to profi t, much less make a living, as writers until at least the 1810s. Clementina Rind, printer of Th omas Jeff erson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), ...
SIX: When Barbers Wrote Books: Mechanic Societies and Authorship
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Th is chapter brings Empowering Words full circle. For Americans outside the elite ranks of society such as Phillis Wheatley, Briton Hammon, John Marrant, Samson Occom, Deborah Sampson, and Clementina Rind, writing brought symbolic and social capital. For the mechanic class, however, the social capital they gained from organizing professionally and politically during and imme-...
CONCLUSION: Uncovering Other Outsider Authors
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For outsiders, the medium always mattered. Th e questions behind Empower-ing Words emerged while I was writing Intricate Relations: Sexual and Economic Desire in American Fiction, 1789– 1814. Th e majority of early American novels were written by literate, well- read individuals of middling economic status. Eighteenth- century outsiders may have read novels, but they did not write ...
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Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013