Imagined intimacy : friendship, conquest, and futurity in the transatlantic eighteenth century




Davis, Carolyn Marjorie

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This dissertation considers some ways that friendship was imagined in the fledgling years of our globalized Western culture. The pathos of friendship is not exempt from the pressures of culture and economy, particularly those of transatlantic capitalism in the eighteenth century. It is impossible to pinpoint when capitalism began to undermine the ethos of expressive friendship, but the three texts in this dissertation offer distinctive modes for accessing neoclassical language to describe the uncertainties of life produced by one’s valuation as capital. The overarching intention of this study is to consider the dimensional intimacies of friendship born from the forcible removal of one’s humanity. While the first two chapters consider the white individual’s responsibility for globalized and colonized friendships, the third offers a view of intimate black futurity rebuilt on the ashes of our history. Chapter One uses Tobias Smollett’s novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) to disambiguate friendship as a contractual obligation born of interest. The titular character engages a series of friends in his search for wealth and love throughout this picaresque novel; his experiences highlight “friendship” as an ambiguous term easily (re)defined. Chapter Two examines the friendship of white womanhood in Susanna Rowson’s Reuben and Rachel: A Tale of Old Times (1798) to question the benevolent assumptions undergirding the sensibility studies of the Early American republic. The third and final chapter considers black friendship and futurity, as distilled by the transatlantic diaspora, by mapping the spiritual neighborhood one joins when reading Phillis Wheatley’s poetry while black. I explore Wheatley’s friendship with Obour Tanner; her potential friendship with Scipio Moorhead; the imagined community her words engendered in Ignatius Sancho and Jupiter Hammon; and the twenty-first century black femmes who find futurity in Phillis Wheatley. My short Coda will explore some of the ways that queer black friendship embodies a particular vulnerability, which our failing capitalist society refuses to confront as it builds narratives of security on white supremacist notions of sustainability.



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