Caught between Worlds: British Captivity Narratives in Fact and Fiction
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The captivity narrative has always been a literary genre associated with America. Joe Snader argues, however, that captivity narratives emerged much earlier in Britain, coinciding with European colonial expansion, the development of anthropology, and the rise of liberal political thought. Stories of Europeans held captive in the Middle East, America, Africa, and Southeast Asia appeared in the British press from the late sixteenth through the late eighteenth centuries, and captivity narratives were frequently featured during the early development of the novel. Until the mid-eighteenth century, British examples of the genre outpaced their American cousins in length, frequency of publication, attention to anthropological detail, and subjective complexity. Using both new and canonical texts, Snader shows that foreign captivity was a favorite topic in eighteenth-century Britain. An adaptable and expansive genre, these narratives used set plots and stereotypes originating in Mediterranean power struggles and relocated in a variety of settings, particularly eastern lands. The narratives' rhetorical strategies and cultural assumptions often grew out of centuries of religious strife and coincided with Europe's early modern military ascendancy. Caught Between Worlds presents a broad, rich, and flexible definition of the captivity narrative, placing the American strain in its proper place within the tradition as a whole. Snader, having assembled the first bibliography of British captivity narratives, analyzes both factual texts and a large body of fictional works, revealing the ways they helped define British identity and challenged Britons to rethink the place of their nation in the larger world.
contentious wrangling, superstitious fables, and rhetorical figuration. 53 Advocacy for a plain style became particularly pronounced in the case of travel writing because of its notorious mixture of the factual and the fabulous. Endorsements of a plain style for travelers often appeared in the guidelines that the Royal Society intermittently published in the Transactions. In the volume for 16761677, the society praised "Some late Travellers, who have made more accurate and faithful reports of the
functionaries. As a result of this immersion in a foreign culture, the captive often gained, and certainly claimed, a more intimate experience of Introduction 5 the foreign than would a mere jailbird. A captivity narrative would carefully document the abject yet intimate experiences of an isolated European captive and organize these experiences as evidence for the full ethnographic truth about the alien culture of the captors, and about the nature of any cultural interaction on the newly
nominal captivity, so that he "only wore a Chain out of Formality" (40). This enterprising captive gains freedom and a secure place in the ranks of Algerian society through an accommodation with its alleged sexual freedom. Although these incidents promote a national pride in the captive Englishman's transition to sexual mastery, they also represent, within the broader rhetorical framework of Smith's comments on Oriental sexuality, a moment of accommodation with what he represents as a degrading
virtue, grants her freedom (33). Aubin's heroines more often direct their violence against their aggressors. When an Alge- 156 NARRATNES OF FICTION rian overlord threatens to rape Emilia, she kills him with a ritualized declamatory vaunt like those that accompany male violence in epic or heroic romance: ''Villain, I fear you not, I'll sacrifice you to preserve my Vertue; die Infidel, and tell your blasphemous Prophet, when you come to Hell, a Christian spilt your Blood" (48). Next she kills a
contrast between British and native conversion rates appeared in Crevecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer, whose first London edition of 1782led a panoply of reprints through the end of the century. The farmer's famous comments on native adoption mark a tense moment of hesitation in the climactic letter, the "Distresses of a Frontier Man." Tom between conflicting allegiances to the British constitution and to the Anglo-American rebels, the farmer resolves them by choosing to relocate amidst a