Department of English

Ph.D. Student Matthew Reilly publishes ""No eye has seen, or ear heard": Arabic Sources for Quaker Subjectivity in Unca Eliza Winkfield's The Female American"

Thu, December 9, 2010

Abstract

This essay examines Unca Eliza Winkfield's 1767 novel, The Female American, in the context of its debt to Ibn Ṭufayl's 12th-century Arabic philosophical romance, Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān. I argue that The Female American engages Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān from the perspective of Quaker observers who adopted that text to portray the spiritual growth of the individual. When archives of early Quakers and their Arabic influences are brought to bear on The Female American, what emerges is not a minoritarian Robinsonade but a full on philosophical, religious, and cultural critique of the theory of Enlightenment subjectivity exemplified by Defoe's castaway.

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