Moderated by Dr. Terry Barnhart, professor of history
Panelists: Janice Derr, assistant professor of library services; Dr. Angela Vietto, professor of English; and Laura Russman, graduate student in historical administration
American captivity narratives have been the subject of sustained interest among scholars in several fields of research, including history, anthropology, literary studies and gender studies. These panelists will explore the genre, the constructions placed on them by those who read them, and invite the audience to discuss the themes explored. Captivity narratives provide readers a window into Native American cultures on various American frontiers. e story of Rachel Plummer and her cousin Cynthia Ann Parker is one such story.
The Comanche took Rachel and Cynthia Ann captive during the 1836 raid on Fort Parker. Plummer wrote about her captivity in Rachael Plummer’s Narrative of Twenty One Month’s Servitude as a Prisoner among the Commanchee Indians. Written to draw attention to the plight of other captives, the narrative also provides readers with a valuable glimpse at Comanche life. Published in 1838, it became widely successful and went on to be revised and reprinted many times. Rachel’s story, like the stories of many captives, has been told and retold until it has reached mythic proportions. How might Cynthia Ann Parker’s “rescue” be viewed as a kind of captivity narrative in its own right, and how does it relate to writings by Native American Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) about her forced white education?
The Indian captivity narrative of Hannah Duston has likewise been many times retold. Hannah Duston was a colonial Massachusetts Puritan mother of nine taken captive by Abenaki Indians during King William’s War. Relating the story served a purpose — just as fables teach children moral lessons. What, for example, were the motives behind the telling (and retelling) of Hannah Duston’s story? How has it often been framed as a contrast between “civilization” and “savagery”? What elements of propaganda are involved?
Terry A. Barnhart is professor of history and coordinator of the history department’s M.A. in historical administration program. He also teaches Illinois history and the U. S. history surveys at the undergraduate level. Previous to joining the history faculty in 1994 he was an associate curator and director of special projects within the Education Division of the Ohio Historical Society. He received a Ph.D. in history from Miami University at Oxford, OH, in 1989.
Janice Derr is a reference librarian at Booth Library and subject specialist for business. She received an M.L.I.S. from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an M.A. in English literature from Eastern Illinois University.
Laura Russman received a B.A. in history with minors in museum studies, sociology, and American culture and ethnic studies from Aurora University in May 2014. She is enrolled in Eastern Illinois University’s historical administration master’s program and works part time for the Illinois Regional Archives Depository in Booth Library. Her interest in native American representation in literature stems from her experience working at the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures during her years at Aurora University.
Angela Vietto, a member of the English faculty at Eastern Illinois University since 2000, specializes in American literature and became interested in the literary depiction of relations between native peoples and European-Americans while earning her doctorate at Penn State. Her paper on Cynthia Ann Parker’s second captivity, considered in light of Zitkala Sa’s writings about forced education, is intended as part of a book chapter she is writing that examines the cultural uses of family history and genealogy in American literature.