F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

The Female American

Back in 2016 an entire issue of Women's Studies, and interdisciplinary journal, was dedicated to The Female American. The novel is indeed interesting. It is essentially an adventure novel and I must say that I know very few adventure novels with a mixed race female protagonist. What stands out to me about this novel is that the protagonis, Unca Eliza Winkfield, is the daughter of a Native princess. This falls in line with a theme introduced by Oroonoko: the obsession with non-white nobility and regalness. Aphra Behn emphasized Oroonoko's noble ancestry and position as well as the regalness of his features which she basically described as not being stereotypically black. In The Female American, UEW is also a descendant of royalty. Ignatius Sancho was a talented composer that rubbed elbows with classy white folks. It seems that if a non-white person's story is to be heard then they must be exceptional, they must be extraordinary. 

I digress. The fact that this novel was the subject of an entire issue of the Womens Studies journal leads me to believe that while early scholarship focused on the novel within the context of Robinson Crusoe and the adventure narrative, modern scholarship has expanded to include discussions on female power and agency. A though similar to this is also made in the Introduction to the Womens Studies issue. On the surface, this novel seems very empowering. A woman survives on an island and religiously colonizes its native population. However, I cannot help but think about the narrative UEW finds from the cave's previous occupant. It is almost as if the novel's alignment with previous male-dominated adventure novels is signified by UEW following the narrative she finds. She also marries her cousin in the end even though he does not best her in use of a bow and arrow. I understand the character to be a compromise between the author's wish for a true female adventurer and the reading audience's inability to support the idea of an unmarried woman. 

There is also the fact that UEW manipulates an entire group of people in order to maintain her ability to settle on this land. This highlights white female participation in colonialism and the act of stealing native land. 

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