Date of Award

6-8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Todd Nathan Thompson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mike Sell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the autobiographical narratives of John Marrant, George White, and John Jea as expressions of black radical evangelicalism. The study argues that their narratives articulate and extend a black identity-politics, largely through a religious/Christian discourse, in ways that subvert, challenge, and revise hegemonic conceptions of religion, race, and subjectivity circulating in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In addition to revealing the political efficacy of evangelical religion for these figures and the black communities they represented, the study also examines their uses of rhetoric and language more broadly and argues that they each construct texts, reference the bible and other religious tropes, and inscribe narrative voices of "mastery," which, like their uses and understandings of evangelical Christian discourse, work to undercut, critique, and condemn white authority. Further, the study interrogates how the rhetorical strategies and ideological imperatives deployed and pursued by Marrant, White, and Jea constitute more than defensive responses to white authority, but simultaneously recover and construct anew a black identity-politics (individual, group, institutional) that is culturally specific, historically steeped, and politically engaged. Finally, this study argues that Marrant, White, and Jea drew upon and extended a "black radical evangelical tradition," informed by an ideology of Black Radicalism (as defined by Cedric Robinson), West African cultural and expressive sources, and the diasporic contexts, what Paul Gilroy calls the "black Atlantic world," that African peoples occupied and shaped in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The study offers close readings of Marrant, White, and Jea and attends to the cultural embeddedness of their narratives or to the imbrications between their texts and contexts. The study draws upon a variety of theoretical-critical positions in order to illuminate the identity-politics, theologies, and ideological imperatives implied or operating in implicit and overt ways in their texts: for example, Critical Race Theory, Discourse Analysis, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory, and New Historicism.

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