Vulnerable Britons: National identity in captivity narratives, 1770-1830.

PITCHFORTH, Samantha M. (2006). Vulnerable Britons: National identity in captivity narratives, 1770-1830. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

Until recently, critical attention given to captivity narratives has focussed upon two key types. The first, frontier tales of white settler captivity at the hands of Native Americans, have received the most scholarly attention. The second type to attract critical interest is concerned with Mediterranean trade, and the captivity of Christians on the Barbary coast, particularly during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This study, by contrast, examines lesser-known, British captivity narratives of the Romantic era, including those available in the Travel Writing section of the Corvey archive, some of which have received little, if any, critical attention to date. The study ranges in location from North America and Africa to India. These British captivity narratives are valuable and subversive documents revealing the sometimes troubled progress of British colonialism and imperialism. These narratives yield fruitful study as texts in their own right, and should be seen as more than overlooked historical sources. The thesis discusses the complex relation of such narratives to 'truth'. It has been suggested by critics such as Pratt (1992), Baepler (1999), and Snader (2000), that captivity narratives are a 'safe' site for the representation of British vulnerability, as the fact of publication presupposes an outcome favourable to imperial authority. This thesis argues against this presumption. By following Edward Said's influential 1978 work Orientialism, postcolonial analysis of imperial and colonial texts has paid scant attention to the fluidity of the boundary between coloniser and colonised, self and Other. This thesis uses the work of Homi K. Bhabha as a way forward from this position. Bhabha questions the binary formulation of colonial relations, arguing that colonial discourse is fundamentally and necessarily ambivalent. The narratives examined in this thesis are used to exemplify this ambivalence, through consideration of the discourses of savagery and civilisation, the representation of British captives at the hands of non-Europeans, and the possibility of 'going native'. This thesis argues that captivity narratives cannot be considered a 'safe' site for the representation of the vulnerability of both British individuals and of British national identity, because in Bhabha's view, the ambivalence of colonial discourse unsettles its authority.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2006.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:21
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 17:21
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20232

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