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  • Literature to 1800
  • William J. Scheick

This year saw the publication of Teaching the Literatures of Early America, ed. Carla Mulford (MLA), a major resource celebrating the current dynamic state of colonial American studies. The anthology includes 21 essays that amply convey the diversity of the field. Most of the chief European colonial interests are covered, as are both traditional and more recent perspectives on various issues, themes, genres, and methods pertinent to the colonial period. The volume includes five presentations of specific course designs.

i Native Americans and Nature in the Colonial Imagination

That the Petrarchan lyric both reflected and fostered the imperialist transformation of the New World is the thesis of Roland Greene's superb Unrequited Conquests: Love and Empire in the Colonial Americas (Chicago). Like the lover in such a lyric, the New World explorer pursues an object of desire that proves to be elusive, an experience that increases the value of the Other. If at first Petrarchan lyric influenced early exploratory encounters, eventually political, economic, and cross-cultural New World experiences influenced the lyric. Edward Gray's New World Babel: Languages and Nations in Early America (Princeton) discloses another Old World influence on how early colonists interpreted their New World experiences. Gray commences his study with a consideration of these settlers' belief that an underlying pre-Babel language could be heard in Native American speech. This concept gave way in the 18th century to theories that stressed linguistic primitivism, a shift in interpretation that aided subsequent imperialist policies concerning Native Americans.

Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier [End Page 223] (Norton) contains James H. Merrell's warning about extant colonial translations of Native American speeches at public council meetings with settlers. Transcriptions of these sometimes lengthy meetings, including Native American comments, have been edited or shaped to suit the goals of the settlers. A man whose war narrative disagreed with the prevailing agendas of his fellow colonists is the subject of Louise A. Breen's "Praying with the Enemy: Daniel Gookin, King Philip's War, and the Dangers of Intercultural Mediatorship," one of 18 essays in Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600-1850, ed. Martin Daunton and Rick Halpern (Penn., pp. 101-22). Gookin maintained that providential design as well as economic benefit authorized the forging of cross-cultural ties with Christianized Native Americans.

Another essay in Daunton and Halpern's instructive anthology, Kathleen Brown's "Native Americans and Early Modern Concepts of Race" (pp. 79-100), discloses that English travelers emphasized differences between cultures when they spoke of Native Americans, whereas they stressed differences between bodily features when they referred to Africans. While Native American women struck these visitors as sexually appealing, West African women were considered to be deformed curiosities. Concerning North Africans, however, Nabil Matar's Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia) concludes that Britons transferred their demonization of Native Americans as sodomites to their Muslim enemies. Unlike their experience in North America, the English failed to prevail in North Africa, where Anglo-captives were enslaved. As a result they published books and illustrations—a paper holy war—that applied constructions of Native Americans to Muslims as characters in a colonial and millennial fantasy. Paul Baepler's edition of White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives (Chicago) includes a consideration of the background and the influence of a relatively neglected version of the colonial captivity genre.

Early promotional writers provide an environmental awareness similar to our own, Timothy Sweet explains in "Economy, Ecology, and Utopia in Early Colonial Promotional Literature" (AL 71: 399-427). They, too, were concerned about how economic enterprise would decay unless managed in terms of such unpredictable physical environmental issues as "input, output, and boundary, commodity, waste, and vent." The patterns of adaptation exhibited by the racial, ethnic, and religious groups who formed the original population of America are identified in [End Page 224] A Nation of Peoples: A Sourcebook on America's Multicultural Heritage (Greenwood), a handy overview with immigration tables, ed. Elliott Robert Barkan. And the literary adaptation of Native Americans is E. W. Pitcher's subject in "Inventing Humorous Indians in Early...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 223-241
Launched on MUSE
1999-01-01
Open Access
No
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