Date of Award

12-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher R. Orchard

Second Advisor

Todd Thompson

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson

Abstract

During the long eighteenth century, many individuals from England and Ireland boarded ships for the transatlantic voyage to the New World to become indentured servants. Tens of thousands of children were “spirited” away from their homes, sometimes snatched from the streets, and forced into servitude. Adults were tricked or “trepan’ed” into serving in the colonies. In fact, people of all ages were forced from the workhouses and the prisons to work as indentured servants in the Americas. Few critical works discuss the disparity of treatment of indentured servants or the significance of the lack of official paperwork for those who were forcibly removed from their home country. The moments of textual visibility that are uncovered in this dissertation in terms of first-hand journals, novels, poetry, stories, and historical accounts construct a concrete identity rooted in a harsh socio-economic and political life. Fictional accounts studied include works from Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kathleen Grissom, and Kate McCafferty. Some authors tend to romanticize the plight of the indentured servant while others paint the circumstances of the indentured servant as particularly horrific. These disparate representations result in an ambiguous overall depiction of indentured servitude. It is the textual presences of these less-fortunate white travelers upon which I will focus in order to rectify an under-representation.

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