Imagined Intimacies : women's writing, community, and affiliation in eighteenth-century North America




Wigginton, Caroline Hopkins

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My dissertation argues for a fundamental reorientation of our approach to public intimacy and identifies a lushly pragmatic rhetorical schema via which black, white, and Native women enter colonial American public life. I contend that these early American women employ the language of personal intimacy -- familial, spiritual, domestic -- to craft wide-ranging public interventions. Through references to their private affiliations, they associate themselves with others who share their religious, economic, political, and social concerns and thereby forge semi-public communities. I demonstrate that because such language retains women's often un-egalitarian and un-affective experiences of quotidian intimacy and therefore appears "natural" for women, it masks the radicalism, formal and substantive, of their interventions. Thus, in making public issues intimate, these women discreetly authorize and advance their interests. They use the same techniques whether they are preaching religious principles, positing alternative political models, or promoting preferred agricultural commodities. I rely upon an interdisciplinary body of scholarship, including studies of anthropology, religion, and economic, political, and regional history, to produce dense local studies. Yet, since I interrogate an array of authors and genres -- published and manuscript poetry, diplomatic and legal documents, commonplace books, spiritual diaries, autobiographies, and letters -- my project synthesizes those studies into a history that is multi-denominational, multi-racial, multi-class, and multi-regional.




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