Missionary Literary Cultures: Comparative Approaches


Panel organizer: Brian Yothers, University of Texas at El Paso  byothers@utep.edu


The colonial and early national period in American literature is co-extensive with the emergence of large-scale Protestant missionary activity around the planet, with an accompanying explosion in print materials in a staggering variety of languages, with a particularly massive growth in Anglophone materials documenting and promoting the activities of English and American missionaries around the world. The last decade has seen numerous studies that explore some sector of this rich and diverse field; what has still been missing is the opportunity for scholars dealing with missionary material in a variety of cultural, geographic, and linguistic contexts to talk with each other about the comparative relationships among these contexts. This panel seeks to put the early efforts of British and German missionaries in colonial North America into conversation with cognate efforts by American, British, Dutch, and German missionaries throughout the Americas and around the globe. Questions to be addressed include the following: How do the Protestant missionary cultures of Europe and North America compare across national, linguistic, and theological boundaries? How do patterns of accommodation, assimilation, appropriation, and resistance vary across a variety of indigenous contexts, from North America to the Caribbean and South and Central America; to East, South, Southeast, and West Asia; to North and Sub-Saharan Africa; to the Pacific Islands and Australia? How do missionary print cultures form and perpetuate themselves from the seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century? How do representations of missionaries, in both European and non-European cultures, develop and refine themselves over this period?  What resources does the missionary archive afford us as we consider the literature of encounter from the Early American period? What models are there for reading missionary narratives, letters, and promotional materials as literary and cultural texts?


Submit your 250-word paper abstract to Brian Yothers at byothers@utep.edu by Friday, September 7, 2012.