Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Secondary Blog Post: Christina

Secondary Literature Blog Post
On The Female American
Christina Cho

The essay by Kristianne Kalata Vaccaro, “‘Recollection... sets my busy imagination to work’: Transatlantic Self-Narration, Performance, and Reception in The Female American” touches upon the fact that women used narratives as a space for them to be independent and autonomous being able to perform different roles(Vaccaro 141). This article scrutinizes hybridity and multiple-ness (having many identities or just not confined to one), because the novel, The Female American “pushes boundaries of genre, gender, and nation in a way that mirrors the messiness- or, in Christopher Looby’s terms, the “disunity”- of eighteenth-century American culture and politics.” (141) The disunity can be explained by how the “mixed-race women in colonial America” unable to clearly define their identities as American or British becomes neither, thereby creating their own sphere of influence. Also this article talks a great deal about American identity and how Unca adapted to her own island and had the mentality of spiritual imperialism (the story being heavy on Christian superiority). Because Unca takes on a “colonial” role she is able to “indulge in what would otherwise be, for an English woman, transgressive acts and adventures”(141). It gives her the power to take on the leadership role in converting the Native Americans. Which would most likely be a male role if one was present. Her being biracial too and being able to speak their language helps her in the process and they accept her immediately. The article further discusses this multiple identity in relation to Unca’s body. Her body, “like her multi-genre text, gains strength in its multiple hybridity... as a mixed- race woman invading this liminal, uncolonized space, the hybrid appearance of Unca’s body makes her a likely candidate to simulataneously identify with and proselytize the Indians.” (143)
For Unca’s case, she becomes a woman missionary acting as a spiritual imperialist. Which is striking in the fact that she is living in a society where she is expected to be silent and to fulfill the role as a submissive wife. But her not being constrained to societal duties once she is put on the island gives her that opportunity. But we see her independence and autonomy in volume one as she turns down her suitors. She is not forced to do anything. Also her being taught by her Uncle is shown a great deal in the narrative and everything she knows is from her Uncle. And because she speaks from HIS perspective, she can almost be seen as a masculine figure because “Unca’s narrative is characterized by her ‘ventriloquizing dominant ideologies of gender,’ as when she addresses herself in her Uncle Winkfield’s voice and, ultimately, preaches to Indians from the concealed location of the hollow, masculine, sun god idol”(142). The “concealed” can be seen as her “putting on” a new role.

This might not have much to do with the story, The Female American but I’m curious to know the effects of having a multiple “fluid” identity. And does it really create more avenues for freedom? Because from reading this article (which I found pretty confusing) it seems to be showing how having that hybridity, or dual-ness gave Unca the freedom and opportunity to exercise independence in the island. And it’s just a thought because our surrounding is becoming more multi-cultural and global.

Works Cited
Vaccaro, Kristianne Kalata. "Recollection … sets my busy imagination to work": Transatlantic Self-Narration, Performance, and Reception in The Female American." Eighteenth Century Fiction 20.2 (2008): 127-150.Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 19 Oct. 2011.


  1. I think the notion of a fluid identity is an interesting one. Whether or not it creates more avenues for freedom I'm not sure, but I'd certainly argue that it does present opportunities for greater influence.

    In Unca's case, she learns almost exclusively from her Uncle and even takes on his voice, giving her, as mentioned, a masculine tone that can be identified as assertive, purposeful...something worth listening to, etc.

    It was also touched on that her identity as a biracial person and being able to speak the native language is of aid to her. For a modern example of how something as simple as being of a biracial ethnicity can be advantageous in appealing to the masses, you wouldn't need to look any further than our current President. I won't make an effort to directly correlate Unca with Barack Obama, but it was just something that popped into my head while reading.

  2. I agree that Unca's being biracial is a very important characteristic of the novel. Multi-racialism is and always has been an intensely discussed social and legal issue, in American and evidently in England, but the narrative puts a different spin on the topic. What I mean is, many people in a new land, occupying the position of a social minority, tend to find themselves "living on the hyphen" (African-American, Indian-American for example), trying to negotiate both identities: navigating the intricacies of the adopted one, while reconciling the place and practicality of the original one. Unca does not seem to share this issue as much. She merges both, with notable success, achieving a degree of fluidity. She's like a chameleon in a way: both male and female, both Indian and European. Applying each of her sides to its respective opposite: exercising Christianity on "fellow natives", rating possible suitors by their use of the bow. However her ability to do this in each situation is afforded her by the fact that some part of her is native to the environment she exercises the foreign upon: The natives listen because she is native and speaks their language; Europeans listen because she is highly educated, wealthy, and embracing of European values. This raises a brow to an issue we otherwise haven't had much of an opportunity to see this semester