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«By Robert Hilliker M. A., Brown University, 2003 B. A., University of British Columbia, 2000 Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment of the ...»

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I insist, here, upon the rhetorical deployment of the Native Americans in the service of English values, because it so clearly demonstrates the power that the discourse of custom has, in the hands of Morton, to redefine national identity: it can make “savage Indians” living in the wilds of New England more English than men who were born and raised in England. Lescarbot, for his part, never engages in such a direct ventriloquism in his Histoire, but he employs a strikingly similar logic in support of his attacks on his competitors. On the one hand he places “good” Native Americans together with “good” French, and on the other “bad” natives with “bad” Europeans, including those French whose cultural practices and allegiances have been compromised by their proximity to other nations.

Interestingly, the homologies Lescarbot established within these groups seem to carry over even into the bodies of the people in question, as he insists that the bodies of Micmac and other native men north of Florida “sont generalement beaux hommes comme en Europe” (3.6.375),76 in part because “ilz n’ont point de levres à gros bors, comme en Afrique, et méme en Hespagne” (3.6.378),77 and in part because, unlike the Brazilians, they do not render their children “difformes par leur ecraser au bout du nez … à la sortie du ventre” (3.6.375).78 These children, we should note, are not only deformed but made different by a blow to the nose. This realization may help us avoid the temptation to see in Lescarbot’s descriptions of these people a precursor of biologically-based racial theory; a few pages later, when Lescarbot characterizes the “façon de parler” amongst the Gascons and the people of Languedoc as “un peu rude,” he explains that this is something “qu’ilz retiennent du Gotisme & de l’Hespagnol par voisinage” (3.6.377).79 Thus it is social contact, and not interbreeding, that either produces national identity or undermines and denatures it.

While I have argued that Morton and Lescarbot, unlike many of their contemporaries, believed in the possibility of positive social and political transformation, we cannot ignore that they too had a great deal of anxiety about the possibility of degeneration.

Seen in the light of this fear of difference, we can begin to understand why Morton and “Our savages are generally as handsome as men in Europe.” “They do not have lips of wide girth, as in Africa, and also in Spain.” “The Brazilians are born as attractive as any other men, but as they exit the womb they are deformed by the breaking of the tips of their noses.” “The Gascons and people of Languedoc [have] a slightly rude fashion of speaking, which they have retained from Gothism and from their neighboring with Spain.” Lescarbot are so concerned about who is involved in colonization in the first place: if the colonial population is not strictly regulated, then national identity will be corrupted. This corruption can take the form of a spontaneous development of alien practices, like those of the Puritans, or a gradual adoption of the practices of people who are not English or French, but in either case the danger presented to national identity—and thus political authority—is clear. Seen in this light, Morton’s righteous anger at the seditious behavior of the Puritans and Lescarbot’s frustration with those people who are only concerned about increasing trade with the Native Americans is motivated, ultimately, by their desire to produce a coherent national identity. Without a large population of right-minded representatives of the nation in the colonies, conventional social structures will disappear;

if, however, such a group is put in place, then even the remaining Native Americans can be assimilated into English or French society.


–  –  –

The rhetoric of custom so skillfully deployed by Marc Lescarbot and Thomas Morton was quickly adopted by their metropolitan interlocutors. The flexibility this rhetoric offered was vital to its success: it not only allowed the French and English to imagine a successful translation of their identities to the colonies, but also provided a mechanism for measuring that success, as evidenced in Pierre Boucher’s Histoire véritable et naturelle of 1668. Boucher’s work was commissioned by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, as a written record of information he had provided in person “They [the children in the colony] commonly have a good enough character, but a little libertine—that is to say, one has a difficult time keeping them captive to their studies” (This and all further translations from Boucher are mine).

about the state of the colonies in New France, or Canada, as it had come to be called when France’s colonial holdings grew in number. At the conclusion of his text, Boucher reproduces a question and answer session he had with a group of important figures in the French government. The initial questions in particular read like a sort of national catechism—“[L]a vigne y vient[-elle] bien?” “Le bled y est-il cher?” and “Quelle boisson boit-on à l’ordinaire?” (135, 135, 140)81—calling on Boucher to affirm that the customary drinking of wine and eating of bread, which Lescarbot so insisted upon a full 60 years before, continue là-bas. Needless to say, Boucher gives all the right answers to these questions and many others, but one answer in particular, included in the epigraph to this chapter, signals that a major rhetorical shift has taken place between the performative, masculine style of the first generation’s “adventurer-colonists” and the pedagogical one of the second and third generations.

Whereas Lescarbot and Morton focus on the performance of their national and religious identities as a means of assuaging metropolitan fears of the loss of an already precarious cultural integrity, these later colonists direct their attention to the reproduction of identity rather than its mere maintenance. In certain aspects this shift had already been anticipated by Bacon’s conceptual linking of custom and education. Bacon states what Boucher merely implies, that education of the young serves as a “most perfect” means of regulating the social body (180), or, to put it in Boucher’s terms, of “captivating liberty.” The success of education, or “early custom” as Bacon characterizes it (180), depends on its pervasiveness; it acts powerfully enough in individuals, but its force is multiplied “Do grapes grow well there?” “Is grain expensive there?” and “What do people there usually drink?” when “copulate and conjoined and collegiate” (180). By rights, then, the colonists of this generation ought to emphasize the role of educational institutions in the production of a well-ordered society—certainly this is what Bacon foresees.82 What we find instead is the nuclear family singled out as the site of this customary education, with the maternal figure in particular occupying the role of instructor, such that a fundamental symbolic link is made between sexual and cultural modes of reproduction.

Thus we find George Alsop, in my second epigraph, addressing his book as though it were a child. Interestingly, Alsop positions himself, in his poem, not as the father of his text, but rather its mother—with Apollo being the “unworthy man” who abandons his child ([a7r]). Alsop calls here upon a long tradition of figuring genius as a masculine phenomenon, regendering the metaphor of reproduction by emphasizing male creativity.83 That said, Alsop ultimately destabilizes his gender identity by literalizing the metaphor, portraying himself as submissive to Apollo’s aggressively sexual advances and thereby registering some of the cultural anxiety attendant upon the colonial project. The poem fixates upon the problem of reception, with Alsop imagining his poem-child being anatomized by metropolitan critics, who will wonder what to make of this “Brat as black as Ink,” “look to [its] Tayle, | To see if [it] wert Feminine or Male,” and ultimately In the New Organon Bacon rails against “the customs and institutions of schools, academies, colleges, and similar bodies” as the site of “everything … adverse to the progress of science” (89), but the fault, for him, lies precisely in such customs as their reliance on Classical authorities like Aristotle, not in their being corporate bodies concerned with education. Thus, Bacon would later come to write his New Atlantis, a utopian “fable … devised, to the end that he might exhibit therein, a model or description of a College, instituted for the interpreting of Nature, and the producing of great and marvellous works for the benefit of men” (Rawley “To the Reader” 236).

See Christine Battersby’s Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics for an extended analysis of the historical development of this tradition. For an earlier critical articulation of this phenomenon, see Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s groundbreaking The Madwoman in the Attic.

conclude that it ought to be hanged ([a7v]-[a8v]).84 Leaving aside the bizarre image of a hanged book, we might wonder what exactly Alsop’s book-child is guilty of. The answer Alsop gives is that it would “encourage ill” by “bringing strange Antipodians … to storm our wits” ([a8v]): in other words, the contents of his book—which are, we should remind ourselves, “The Character of the Province of Mary-Land” itself—could threaten and perhaps even reverse the stable identities of English society.

What Alsop’s poem makes clear, then, is that the rhetoric of custom has shifted in part because the nature of the anxiety has shifted: we are not simply talking about English and French men and women transplanting to what will be a “New” France and England, but about the children who will be born there, and who will perhaps even return to the metropole. One can see the ramifications of the colonial project slowly, belatedly, taking shape in the metropolitan mind. This shift lines up well with that which Patricia Pender has traced (drawing upon the work of Louis Montrose) from the masculine and erotic symbolism of discovery and conquest to the feminine and familial symbolism of Anne Bradstreet’s “Dialogue between Old England and New” (Pender 118-20, see also Montrose 183-9). What is happening in these texts, in other words, is a mutation of the rhetoric of custom into a rhetoric of familial education as a means of explaining how national and religious identities will be safely reproduced in the colonies.

Though Alsop’s reference here to blackness strikes a modern reader as a clear invocation of racial difference, work by Karen Newman, Jean Feerick, Roxann Wheeler, and others has demonstrated that the seventeenth century English understanding of blackness was radically different from the theories of biological race that developed primarily in the nineteenth century. By invoking the color black here, Alsop calls upon humoral theory, which intersected with climate theory so as to produce a general anxiety amongst Europeans of the era about the effects of living in the Americas upon the character of European colonists. His infant is black, in other words, not because of miscegenation, but because it is born in a different climate; that said, his infant’s blackness does have clearly negative moral connotations.

The larger discursive consequences of this mutation are great and far-reaching. As Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse have shown in The Imaginary Puritan, the institution of “family” comes to be construed as “a cultural space where culture and nature collaborate to produce individuals” (17). Ultimately, for Armstrong and Tennenhouse, the family becomes the primary cause of history, while it remains “outside of history per se” (17). Certainly the emphasis on family in these texts, rather than other educational institutions, serves much the same mystifying function that it does in the histories that Armstrong and Tennenhouse take issue with, grounding collective identities, both religious and national, in much the same way that “culture” both grounds the collective identities it names in its various couplings (American culture, Renaissance culture, etc.) and mystifies the dynamics behind them.85 More than that, however, the shift from custom, as the masculine performance of national and religious identities, to the feminized and domestic space of education is precisely what enables the discourse of family that Armstrong and Tennenhouse critique.

Whereas Armstrong and Tennenhouse focus on unpacking the sociological narrative of the history of the family, I seek to interrogate the family’s now conventional status as a “natural institution” precisely by rehistoricizing the family as a rhetorical figure occupying a key position within the development of the concept of custom. In order to do so, I first examine the writings of Anne Bradstreet, elucidating the larger social and This is true even in the case of the New England colonies, where the education of children and servants was explicitly ordained to be the responsibility of the male head of household (Edmund S. Morgan 87-8), since what these texts provide is not an account of education as it took place, but rather a symbolic invocation of the family as the site of education.

political implications of her representation of the family produced by its conceptual linking with education. My reading of her poetry, in particular, draws upon recent scholarship by Pender and others who have sought to overturn the conventional reception of Bradstreet’s work as best where it treats those subjects closest to her personal experience as a wife and mother. Bradstreet, I argue, in fact presents us with a largely rhetorical invocation of education as a means of symbolically accounting for the problem of identity reproduction, a problem figured in her writings by a series of spatial discontinuities—between not only “Old” England and “New,” but also between heaven and earth. The integrity of the nuclear family, for her, becomes the key to the nation’s continued health, and education the primary means of securing that integrity against the threat of religious degeneration.

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