This month brings the culmination of two projects of mine which have finally reached publication: “Language Ideology in the Paxton Pamphlet War,” in Early American Studies, and “‘Government in Petticoats’: Gender Poetics in New Jersey’s Newspaper Literature, 1789-1807,” in New Jersey Studies. These are my first two articles to reach publication, so I’m feeling especially proud and gratified.
I first started writing “Language Ideology in the Paxton Pamphlet War” in November 2016. The Paxton pamphlet war was a year-long storm of pamphlets, broadsides, letters, and many other documents that responded to two Euro-American massacres of Native Americans in Pennsylvania in December 1763. After those violent slayings, the group of populist frontiersmen—largely from the town of Paxton—proceeded to lead an armed march toward Philadelphia, threatening to attack the Native Americans seeking refuge there. Fortunately, the crisis was averted, but the events continued to be discussed in the pamphlet war, and tensions hardly dissipated. In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, reading and writing about white populists exacting cruel and shameless violence on a friendly local ethnic group was an intense process. The parallels between the events of 1763-64 and America’s contemporary socio-political turmoil were disturbing—and still are. And the topic that my essay focuses on—the way that ethnic groups used written representations of one another’s language to assert their own dominance and superiority—resonates as much as ever today.
Like “Language Ideology,” “Government in Petticoats” was originally a dissertation chapter that I later revised into article form. It won the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance’s 2019 “Graduate Essay in NJ History Award,” which was a great honor. I was even presented the award at the 2019 New Jersey History Conference, which featured lots of important work about women in NJ’s history (the conference theme was “NJ Women Make History”). I’ve included a link and an abstract below.
Also keep an eye out for the Spring 2020 issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, which will be published my article on Walt Whitman and Trinity Church!
“Language Ideology in the Paxton Pamphlet War”: This essay examines the literary texts of Pennsylvania’s 1764 Paxton pamphlet war, giving close attention to the linguistic representations through which vying parties attempted to claim superiority in the Anglo-American sociopolitical hierarchy. Competing ethnic and political groups published creative literature (including poetry, dialogues, a farce, and a narrative) disparaging their opponents’ British virtue and status by lampooning their literary and grammatical acuity and emphasizing their deviation from “acceptable” spoken English. Through analysis of the pamphlet war’s portrayals of Quaker, American Indian, and Scots-Irish Presbyterian language, this essay demonstrates that the interrelated issues of language, virtue, and British identity were central to the concerns of provincial Pennsylvanians in 1764.
“‘Government in Petticoats’: Gender Poetics in New Jersey’s Newspaper Literature, 1789-1807”: This essay analyzes the literature (poetry, anecdotes, fiction, and miscellanies) of New Jersey newspapers between 1789 and 1807, a period when many of the state’s women were legally enfranchised. Scholarship concerning New Jersey’s ephemeral texts by or about women and the vote during these years has been limited, often because of the archive’s perceived limitations: there is little direct reference to women’s suffrage to be found there. However, by concentrating on the literary texts often overlooked in favor of more expositive, essayistic pieces, this study sheds new light on early republican anxieties to define and control gender in the public sphere, and it offers a new critical perspective of shifting and interrelated notions of womanhood, gender, and early American ideologies of liberty, equality, and rights.