Domestic and Foreign Issues in American Barbary Captivity Narratives
This research seeks to explore the domestic and foreign issues reflected in Barbary captivity narratives, with a particular focus on American captivity accounts. Methodologically, it draws heavily on a multidisciplinary approach, with an emphasis on historicist and postcolonial theories. Mary Louise Pratt and Edward W. Said are some of the scholars from whom it has borrowed its critical paradigms. Some of these paradigms like “Orientalism” are redefined to make them fit into this research. The latter concept, for example, is redefined primarily as a study of ideological captivity. It follows that this research does not look at “captivity” simply as a harrowing physical experience but also as an ideological phenomenon. In addition to corporeal captivity, one can also be captured by texts. Captivity is also looked at as an epistemological tool reflecting and thinking about issues prevalent in the captive’s society. Consequently, the corpus of this research includes two anthologies of Barbary captivity accounts and a nineteenth century political essay on the Regency of Algiers. The former are respectively edited by Daniel J.Vitkus (Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England, 2001) and Paul Baepler (White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Captivity Narratives, 1999), and the latter is Sketches of Algiers by William Shaler (1826). The British Barbary captivities included in Vikus’s anthology are analyzed in an introductory chapter, the purpose of which is to underline the continuity in function of Barbary captivities recounted by pre-modern English/British captives and the Barbary captivities narrated by American captives in the colonial and postindependence periods. This research shows that British and American captivities can be placed in a spectrum reflecting the same pattern of thematic and formal development. In accordance with the historical contexts of their publication and the balance of power relations from which these captivities are narrated, one finds on one side of this spectrum captivities dealing with postcolonial themes and on the other side captivities concerned mostly with imperial concerns. In line with the re-definition of the topos of captivity, this research devotes a whole chapter to the study of orientalism-cum-imperialism in Shaler’s Sketches of Algiers as an ideological captivity.