Advisor(s)

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon

Contributor(s)

Cathy D. Matson, Marina Leslie, Nicole Aljoe

Date of Award

5-2013

Date Accepted

4-2013

Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department or Academic Unit

College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Department of English.

Keywords

early Atlantic writing, textiles, creole societies, women

Disciplines

Art and Design | Book and Paper | Literature in English, North America, ethnic and minority | Social History | Women's Studies

Abstract

This dissertation examines the parallel lives of texts and textiles in the long eighteenth century. Looking at the textile trade alongside early Atlantic printing and paper making practices invites us to consider how these two related mediums were fundamental to the social fabrication of Atlantic subjects and creole societies. While scholars have posited that the circulation of texts and images allowed readers to forge transatlantic communities, in an age of paper shortages, relatively low literacy rates, and fairly limited access to printed texts, far more people had ready access to one of the most basic—and yet most valuable—items of household and early industrial production: that item, of course, was cloth. Moreover, while I argue that women's work with textiles plays an essential role in the Atlantic circulation of ideas and practices—a role, that is, that we usually attribute solely to print—this work, nonetheless, was also central to the rise of eighteenth-century print culture: printed on rag paper, bound in linen and silk boards, and stitched together with a variety of different threads, texts bear the mark of women laboring in flax fields and early cotton, wool, and silk cottage industries, and as spinners, seamstresses, and laundresses. Public prints have more to tell us than the words inked on the page: printed on paper made from household rags, novels, newspapers, broadsides, paper money, contracts, indentures, and manumission papers, in fact, narrate histories of domestic life and labor. That is, we might say that women's cloth work keeps the transatlantic trade in books and texts alive and well. In this sense, cloth industries not only establish a discourse shared by laborers, manufacturers, and consumers; rather, we might say that textiles also, in fact, inhabit and colonize these print materials, thereby revealing the many ways through which women from diverse backgrounds may have "written" their way into public discourses dominated by elite men.

Document Type

Dissertation

Rights Holder

Danielle Catherine Skeehan

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