Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)
captivity narratives; settler colonialism; Cynthia Ann Parker; collective memory; cultural trauma
This dissertation explores representations of the captivity narrative of Cynthia Ann Parker, an Anglo woman captured as a child by Comanche, with whom she lived in a kinship relationship until her forced return to Anglo society twenty-four years later. The project draws upon trauma theory to explain the persistent appeal of Parker’s narrative. Interpretations analyzed include the original historical account of Parker’s narrative, and appearances in the genres of opera, film, graphic novel, and historical fiction. The dissertation reveals how appearances of Parker’s narrative correspond to periods in US history in which social change threated the dominant position of Anglo American men. The primary argument is that captivity narratives serve to reinforce hegemonic Anglo masculinity promoted by the American settler colonial system. The dissertation is divided into six chapters organized chronologically to demonstrate the significance of Parker’s narrative in various historical moments. Chapter One provides a historical overview of Parker’s story and briefly reviews the impact of captivity narratives. Chapter Two explores the first formal historical account of Parker’s narrative and discusses the significance of myth to conceptions of Americanism during the Progressive Era. Chapter Three examines Julia Smith’s interpretation of Parker’s narrative via her opera, Cynthia Parker, to show how expansion of rights for white women between World Wars I and II failed to translate to equal rights for all due to the persistence of the racial hierarchy established by the settler colonial system. In Chapter Four, John Ford’s film The Searchersdemonstrates how Parker’s narrative helped reinforce the social position of Anglo men returning from World War II. Chapter Five looks to alternative forms of Parker’s narrative in the graphic novel, White Comanche, and historical fiction, Ride the Wind, to demonstrate how Anglo writers, even when attempting to center Native people as agents in Parker’s story, continue to reinforce negative stereotypes that perpetuate the supremacy of Anglo masculinity. The final chapter briefly looks at the current political and social climate of the US to demonstrate how the long-term insidious trauma inherent in the settler colonial system continues to impact racial and gender hierarchical performance.
Hodges, Treva Elaine, "The captivity narratives of Cynthia Ann Parker : settler colonialism, collective memory, and cultural trauma." (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 3256.