Mary Rowlandson – A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration

A student once described Rowlandson as a “ridiculously strong woman,” and I think you’ll see how gripping a narrative this was for a Puritan audience. As with our discussion of Taylor today, I’m hoping we’ll keep the larger exam topics in mind as we read Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, balancing our connections to other texts with a close reading of her work.

I’ll look forward to journals from our Wednesday writers by Tuesday night. We’ll read from the bio through the end of the Twelfth Remove (235-250).

Questions to consider (try to develop one in depth)

Close reading:

  1. Typology: How does the book of Job or the story of David or the the character of Daniel relate to Rowlandson’s captivity experience? How might this biblical context clarify her use of phrases like “ravenous Beasts” or “Barbarous Creatures” to describe indigenous people? What examples of Calvinism do you find in her narrative? Consider using this searchable online Bible to track down some of those biblical allusions.
  2. Captivity narratives: See this overview of the captivity narrative genre. In what ways do you see Rowlandson following these conventions or deviating from them in her personal account of captivity?

Intertextual reading:

  1. Race relations: How do the other texts we’ve read that pertain to race relations help you make sense of Rowlandson’s portraits of Native Americans? Remember that the publication date for this text is 1682, nearly two hundred years after Columbus’s first contact. What has changed about race relations in this span of time? What has stayed the same?
  2. Religion: How does her discussion of religion compare and contrast with other texts that we’ve read? In what ways might she be similar to other Calvinists? In what ways might she be different? What might these comparisons and contrasts suggest about religion in early America?
  3. Gender: Like Anne Bradstreet’s poetry collection, the original version of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative contained a preface by a Puritan minister endorsing her writing as beneficial reading for other Puritans. See the original preface here. Why do you think the Norton anthology might omit these prefatory comments and begin directly with Rowlandson’s captivity account? How does Rowlandson compare to the other women we’ve seen in colonial American literature (female figures in Iroquois and Pima tradition, Eve, Hutchinson, and Bradstreet)?

As a follow-up to our discussion of Bradford, I posted two songs by Bob Dylan and Toby Keith (scroll down to find them) to illustrate the ways competing interpretations of American history continue in our own time. Using this idea, how might we use contemporary music to connect Rowlandson’s narrative to our own time? If you were filming part of this memoir, how might you use music in your soundtrack to help us understand a particular scene? Feel free to bring a song or email me a YouTube link for discussion.

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