Piracy and Colonial Life
This chapter examines the ways early nineteenth century authors framed piracy as an instrument of state growth, anti-colonial resistance, as well as a rationale for imperial expansion and intervention in the Americas in William Gilmore Simms’s The Yemassee (1835), John Brougham’s 1857 play Columbus, El Filibustero!, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Red Rover: A Tale (1829) and The Water Witch; or, The Skimmer of the Seas (1830), as well as El Filibustero: Novela Historica (1864), written by Yucatec author Eligio Ancona. In a climate of rapid national expansion, nineteenth century authors used the pirate as a central character to plot national(ist) narratives. Given piracy’s relationship to both state-building and anti-colonial enterprises, as well as piracy’s capacity to both facilitate and threaten property ownership, piracy helps us understand the radical and repressive regimes of American power. The historical novels examined in this chapter are interested in the shadowy origins of the American nation-state, as much as they are with the potentially conflicted present and future of these nation-states.
Keywords: William Gilmore Simms, James Fenimore Cooper, Eligio Ancona, The Yemassee, The Red Rover: A Tale, The Water Witch; or, The Skimmer of the Seas, Columbus, El Filibustero!, Pirate, Piracy, Hemispheric literature, Historical romance
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