Imaginary Friends: Representing Quakers In American Culture, 1650?1950

Paperback | May 15, 2009

byJames Emmett Ryan

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When Americans today think of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, they may picture the smiling figure on boxes of oatmeal. But since their arrival in the American colonies in the 1650s, Quakers’ spiritual values and social habits have set them apart from other Americans. And their example—whether real or imagined—has served as a religious conscience for an expanding nation.        
    Portrayals of Quakers—from dangerous and anarchic figures in seventeenth-century theological debates to moral exemplars in twentieth-century theater and film (Grace Kelly in High Noon, for example)—reflected attempts by writers, speechmakers, and dramatists to grapple with the troubling social issues of the day. As foils to more widely held religious, political, and moral values, members of the Society of Friends became touchstones in national discussions about pacifism, abolition, gender equality, consumer culture, and modernity.
    Spanning four centuries, Imaginary Friends takes readers through the shifting representations of Quaker life in a wide range of literary and visual genres, from theological debates, missionary work records, political theory, and biography to fiction, poetry, theater, and film. It illustrates the ways that, during the long history of Quakerism in the United States, these “imaginary” Friends have offered a radical model of morality, piety, and anti-modernity against which the evolving culture has measured itself.
 

Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book Award

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From the Publisher

When Americans today think of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, they may picture the smiling figure on boxes of oatmeal. But since their arrival in the American colonies in the 1650s, Quakers’ spiritual values and social habits have set them apart from other Americans. And their example—whether real or imagined...

James Emmett Ryan is associate professor of English at Auburn University.

other books by James Emmett Ryan

Format:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:May 15, 2009Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299231747

ISBN - 13:9780299231743

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Illustrations   
Acknowledgments   

Introduction: National Identity, Representation, and Genre   
1. Quaker Religion in Colonial New England   
2. Political Theory and Quaker Community in the Early Republic   
3. Chronicles of Friendship: Quaker Historiography in the Early Republic   
4. Quaker Biography in Transatlantic Context   
5. Representing Quakers in American Fiction   
6. Staging Quakerism: Theater and Cinema   
Epilogue   

Notes   
Works Cited   
Index   

Editorial Reviews

“Ryan’s Imaginary Friends examines texts by Friends, their admirers, and their opponents, demonstrating a long-standing American fascination with the Society of Friends. Tracing the Quaker presence in texts from the colonial period to the mid-twentieth century, Ryan shows the range of texts—polemics, martyrologies, biographies, stories and novels, plays, and films—featuring Quakers. Drawing on Sacvan Bercovitch and Constance Rourke, he argues that ‘actual Quakers and imagined Quakers’ played a ‘unique role . . . in the formation of American National Identity.’”—Lisa M. Gordis, Early American Literature