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Cathy Rex's Research Project

Cathy Rex’s current project, a monograph entitled Indians on Paper: Anglo-American Women Writers and Representations of Indianness, 1629-1824, examines the appropriations and revisions of Indian identity first wrought by Anglo-Americans in visual form and then by early Anglo-American women writers in textual form.  Specifically, she examines the ways in which iconic images of Native figures, such as the various versions of the Massachusetts Bay Colony seal and the numerous representations of Pocahontas, informed not only colonial/early republican American identity, but also the identity of early white women writers like Mary Rowlandson (The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, 1682), Ann Eliza Bleecker (The History of Maria Kittle, 1793), Lydia Maria Child (Hobomok, 1824), and the pseudonymous Unca Eliza Winkfield of The Female American (1767) This study argues that these writers co-opted and revised those images and ideas of Indianness in order to posit their own identities as American women writers; they produced “Indians on paper”—flattened, one-dimensional versions of reality that would ultimately serve as the source for these women writers’ own identities in print.  While certainly problematic and oftentimes patently racist, the Indian writings of these women writers are also transgressive and disruptive of patriarchal and nationalistic discourses governing American identity, an identity that has always had Indianness at its core.  This monograph brings early American texts by women writers and iconic portrayals of Indianness into focus together as texts that co-construct one another and actively participate in the revision of the racial, national, gendered, and historical discourses that underpin American identity.  Indians on Paper examines the ambivalent and fraught relationship between Indians and white women as each negotiated and resisted the patriarchal, colonialist system.