'At all Times, and in all Places, Adored and Oppressed': Gender, Temporality, and Conjectural History in the Transatlantic World, 1600-1800.
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This dissertation examines scenes which imagine the collision between primordial time and the time of history to demonstrate that conjectural history is a productive term for understanding how temporality is embedded in constructions of race and gender in transatlantic literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The collision of temporalities in the texts of this dissertation is a product of an Enlightenment project. This project depended upon the temporalization of difference as a mechanism for narrating the progress of human societies. The following readings of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts consider the transatlantic encounter as one inextricably involved with the process of the temporalization of difference. While this dissertation examines texts often included in the category of transatlantic literature, it also reads conjectural histories as joint participants in creating fictions about the Americas. Viewed in this way, conjectural history identifies both a mode of creating knowledge and certain kind of narrative which can emerge from a variety of texts irrespective of genre. Indeed, as this dissertation demonstrates, prints and maps, plays and poems, travel narratives and novels can all mobilize conjectural histories of their own. Drawing out the imaginative work required by conjectural histories, this dissertation shows how they are conceptually linked to more recognizable transatlantic encounter narratives. Because of its immediate and continual association with “early,” “young” or “backwards” humanity, the Americas as setting for encounter, both fictionalized and historical, necessarily activates the temporality of pre-history. Such a textual and visual collision theorizes difference through a temporal architecture. Scenes in which contact, social contract, and sexual contract are collapsed mobilize their own conjectural histories, using temporal frameworks to construct the genres of race and gender. By embedding these scenes in remote times and spaces, texts authorize and naturalize sets of relations between nascent human categories. The texts examined in this dissertation demonstrate how the reenactment of contact works to create narratives of human progress racialized and gendered by/within a temporal architecture made possible by contact’s collision of temporalities.