I am excited to be a part of HASTAC and hope to connect with more people interested in textual analysis. I am finishing up my dissertation and will defend in early 2017 (!) My work interrogates women's Indian captivity narratives published throughout the early republic, specifically 1787-1848. My research indicates that these sources are a better reflection of the discourse surrounding an emerging national identity than some of the typical print sources examined by historians. My work supports the notion that any attempt at maintaining sovereignty in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was really a matter a pragmatism, rather than a coherent ideology of national identity. Of course, this does not preclude the existence of any national identity. Rather what these sources indicate is the emergence of an identity in which the notions of civilization, specifically a tamed landscape and private ownership of property became the foundation of this identity. Captivity narratives are useful because they provide an interesting test for identity. Upon redemption, women, in collaboration with a male editor, document their experience. Notions of identity are consistently at the forefront of the discussion throughout the narrative. More importantly, as Americans read these narratives, they, too, become part of a shared history, a collective memory in which women's experiences and indigenous peoples factor more heavily than previously thought.
I really want to be able to analyze all of the narratives in a way that I can acknowledge and account for language and rhetoric. That is, why are some expressions lifted entirely from narratives of the 18th century and repackaged as another woman's experience in the 19th century? What does this reveal to us about the contsruction of identity and the role of language in this construct?