Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives

By Pauline Turner Strong | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgments

Long ago John Aubrey, bibliographer extraordinaire at the Newberry Library, cautioned me against becoming captivated by the British colonial captivity narratives that I discuss in this book. Despite his warning my captivation has lasted for more than two decades, since I first read James Axtell's essay "The White Indians of Colonial America." In these years several excellent literary and ethnohistorical studies of captivity narratives have appeared, but none that analyze the entire set of colonial captivity narratives in light of current theories of colonial representation and practice. In aiming to do just that, I have considered not only all the narratives of captivity among Indians published in British North America but also the largely untold stories of Native Americans captured by British explorers and colonists. The more familiar captivity narratives of Capt. John Smith, gentlewoman Mary Rowlandson, and the Rev. John Williams appear in a new light when read alongside less familiar stories of captivity, particularly those concerning Native American captives. The "Captive Selves" of the title, then, are intentionally ambiguous, as are the "Captivating Others."

It is with equal measures of pleasure and embarrassment that I acknowledge the generosity of the many individuals and institutions that have contributed to the writing of this book. My interest in Anglo- American representations of Native Americans was inspired by the late Alfonso Ortiz of the University of New Mexico, and it was sustained at the University of Chicago by Raymond Fogelson and George Stocking. Their support as well as that of the late David Schneider was crucial in the early stages of this study, when research on American culture and history remained unusual, even suspect, in anthropology. The theoretical approach developed in this book is much indebted to my studies in philosophy at the Colorado College, where I also was introduced to the field of ethnohistory by Marianne Stoller. Much of my research was conducted at the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian at the Newberry Library, where I benefited immensely from John Aubrey's expertise, the superb Edward E. Ayer Collection, and a lively, interdisciplinary community of scholars and writers. In addition to John Aubrey I want to thank Mary Druke Becker, Francis Jennings, Frederick Hoxie,

-xiii-

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