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

Performance Theory, Christian Imperialism, and The Female American ----A Lesson Plan

The Female American; Or, The Adventures of Unca Eliza Winkfield is a novel that portrays religious imperialism by a female heroine. It is interesting to see a woman of transnational heritage—Indigenous and English—carry on as an oppressor. Unca performs the expectations of a colonizer and missionary, a role that is often masculine. In further looking at performance theory, Unca’s uses a sun idol to symbolize authority through its appearance: “The image itself, of gold, greatly exceeded human size: it resembled a man clad in a long rob or vest” (Winkfield 86). Here, Unca sets herself as an authority figure over the indigenous people. Through this powerful image of the idol, Unca performs the masculine role of God. Specifically, she posits herself as an authority figure with sole knowledge of spiritual truths.

Moreover, Unca’s role as a religious leader helps her transition into a figure that commands the people to do as she wants. This is clear through Unca’s language as she centers her wants through their actions. She orders them to rise, retire, and sometimes “row me thither...I told the Indians they might return back, and come again in the evening” (128). Some scholars have seen this text as a feminist piece. They see this text as a feminist utopia that shows a woman who is a dominant figure in an 18th-century narrative. Unlike many texts during this era, she negates women's typical gender roles in the domestic sphere; she transgresses gender boundaries (Choudhary). I think one must question the ethics in Unca’s behavior. Specifically, one must examine her ethics as a Christian imperialist.

For a lesson plan, students will have an in-depth discussion on Unca’s role as an imperialist? Is she a feminist? These are questions that I would pose to students before discussing the historical context of this text. Before class and reading the text, students would be required to read the following articles:

Imperialism and Religion (All Open Access Sources)

First Encounters: Native Americans and Christians


The Foreign Missionary Movement in the 19th and early 20th Centuries

Colonialism--Article and Videos

Explore the Indigenous Archives

I will discuss this novel for three days. I will lecture students over the historical context of this novel. Unca’s treatment of religion and the indigenous people lie in imperialistic indoctrination. Students will be required to make the connections between the novel and these resources. Next, we will examine paintings of indigenous people in the 17th century. What is going on in these paintings? What connections can you make between this images and the novel?

Feminist Theory

Explore the Feminist Theory Archive at Brown University

Digital Feminist Archives at Brown University

As a class, we will explore feminist theory. Can Female American be read through a feminist lens? How so? Next, we will explore the archives in groups to discover what connections can be made with this archive. Can Unca’s role be considered a true form of liberation? What is the hypocrisy in this?

Performance Theory

The Definition of Performance Theory (Brown University)  OAR

Gender Performance Theory   *Students will be given access to this article; not OAR
After the discussion, we will discuss the term papers. Students will be able to explore the topics given or topics that they have come up with for their essays. 


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