Izvestiya of Saratov University.

Philology. Journalism

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John Woolman’s image in the English non-fi ction in the 1850–1940s: Hagiographical motives

Abdurakhmanova-Pavlova Daria V., Saint Petersburg University

John Woolman, an 18th century Quaker preacher, is known in the history of American literature for his spiritual autobiography titled The Journal (1774). The 1850–1940s is a period when Woolman’s autobiographical character attracts the attention of British and American critics and essay writers. They publish a signifi cant number of non-fi ction texts, which contain numerous elements of hagiography in Woolman’s portraiture, depicting him as a saintly proto-abolitionist fi gure. According to recent studies, the pioneering role in Woolman’s literary “sanctifi cation” belonged to the 19th century American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and it was his essays about Woolman that established the “hagiographical” tradition. The paper suggests, however, that the poet followed the tradition which had started earlier. The following “hagiographical” elements may be distinguished in the analyzed non-fi ction texts: 1) (semi-) anonymity of several texts; 2) frequent use of the adjective “saint” in reference to Woolman; 3) overestimation of Woolman’s historical signifi cance as “the fi rst abolitionist”; comparisons with famous saints; 4) the motif of being born in “a pious family” and “eulogizing on the birthplace of the saint”; 5) historically inaccurate portrayal of Woolman as a poor and semiliterate person; 6) emphasizing such psychological traits as childlikeness and absolute truthfulness. The conclusion is that Woolman’s sanctifi cation was promoted by the historical situation in the USA of the 1850–1940s as well as by The Journal itself and a certain “fl exibility” inherent in Woolman’s autobiographical text.


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