Captivity Narratives

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The Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature


literature, captivity literature, narratives, colonization, captivity texts, early American life


The essence of this article is captivity literature. In a few pages, the article captures the fascinating genre. Captivity narratives present examples of several literary genres familiar to early American readers. This intriguing canon serves as a capacious window into early American life. This article traces incidents, which led to the emergence of captivity literature. As the processes of colonization, settlement, and displacement continued in early America, captivities became more common. Although never a routine experience, enough colonists were taken captive and enough of their stories were published that captivity texts emerged as a recognizable genre. They have become key documents in studies of early American history and culture. Captivity texts reveal some of the complex negotiations between the dominant discourses of powerful European forces, such as the colonial governments and religious institutions. A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson is a seminal text in this genre.