A Poetics of Itinerancy

Elizabeth Elkin Grammer

in Some Wild Visions

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195139617
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834242 | DOI:

Series: Religion in America

A Poetics of Itinerancy

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To a large degree, these female evangelists composed their autobiographies by addition, writing what literary scholars have variously called “and then” narratives or travelogues, being unable or unwilling to prioritize and edit a lifetime of activity. “Ordained” by God and serving as his “mouthpiece,” they may well have found it advantageous to be “invisible” narrators, and writing in a century in which women were constrained in the literary marketplace, they may also have been uncomfortable with the authorial role itself, despite their very public careers as preachers. More significantly, however, they operated largely outside of institutional frameworks, and thus lacked the biographical and narrative landmarks (the occasions of public achievement and success, moments of unmistakable arrival from which autobiographies usually issue and toward which such narratives usually proceed) that helped some male itinerants compose their Lives without resorting to parataxis. As female itinerant preachers, they wrote from a precarious, ill‐defined position, in which they were marginalized from both the male and female paradigms of development, from literary models (the narrative of success or education and the marriage plot) which might have helped them “form” a more shapely narrative. Their itinerant autobiographies are thus another index of their anxiety as women settled in Christ but unsettled in nineteenth‐century American culture and of the complicated relationship between literary and political authority, between gender and genre.

Keywords: autobiographies; gender and genre; male itinerants; travelogues; success; education; marriage plot; ordained; female evangelists; nineteenth‐century American culture

Chapter.  14870 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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