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Recollection … sets my busy imagination to work: Transatlantic Self-Narration, Performance, and Reception in The Female American

Kristianne Kalata Vaccaro, Duquesne University

Volume 20, no. 2, Winter 2007-08

©McMaster University, 2015. All articles published on the Eighteenth-Century Fiction website are protected by copyright held by Eighteenth-Century Fiction, a journal published by the Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University.


In contrast to many other eighteenth-century novels that make use of the autobiographical form, The Female American does not merely reflect on its protagonist’s life experiences in order to make sense of them. Rather, it performs life experiences in order to reveal how the social systems informing them — namely, race, class, and gender — are constructed to support the cultural dominant of which the narrator-protagonist, Unca Eliza Wakefield, is not a part. In so exploring these social systems, The Female American engages with notions of performance both on the level of autobiographical narrative, as Unca’s writing performs religious and political roles for its readers, and on the level of the female body within that narrative, as Unca’s body performs androgynous gender, hybrid race, and hybrid religion to attract multiple audiences. Through this twofold engagement with performance, The Female American explores the vexed relationship between performer and audience, ultimately pointing to the ways in which religious and political beliefs are performed to manipulate audiences into perceiving them as absolute truths.

Other ECF articles on the topic of “America” include:

Episodic or Novelistic?: Law in the Atlantic and the Form of Daniel Defoe’s Colonel Jack
by GABRIEL CERVANTES (ECF 24.2, Winter 2011-12)

“New People in a New World”?: Defoe’s Ambivalent Narratives of Emigration
by JOSEPH F. BARTOLOMEO (ECF 23.3, Spring 2011)

Sarah Scott and America: Sir George Ellison, The Man of Real Sensibility, and the Squire of Horton
by EVE TAVOR BANNET (ECF 22.4, Summer 2010)

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