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Indeliberate Democracy: The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive

Indeliberate Democracy: The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive elizabeth fenton University of Vermont Indeliberate Democracy The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive While toiling in a quarry in Algiers, Updike Underhill, the narrator of Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive (1797), encounters an Englishman who has converted to Islam. Once a slave like Underhill, the man now lives as a free Algerian. Describing the process that effected his transformation, he explains, "I was visited by a Mollah or Mahometan priest . . . [who] opened the great truths of the mussulman faith" (126). His conversion has been political as well as religious: in Algiers, the Christian who becomes a Muslim is also the slave who becomes a citizen. When Underhill expresses horror at this apostasy, the Englishman merely replies, I respect your prejudices . . . because I have been subject to them myself. . . . But I have conversed with the Mollah, and I am convinced of the errours of my education. Converse with him likewise. If he does not convince you, you may glory in the Christian faith; as that faith will then be founded on rational preference, and not merely on your ignorance of any other religious system. (126­27) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Early American Literature University of North Carolina Press

Indeliberate Democracy: The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive

Early American Literature , Volume 51 (1) – Mar 16, 2016

Indeliberate Democracy: The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive


elizabeth fenton University of Vermont Indeliberate Democracy The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive While toiling in a quarry in Algiers, Updike Underhill, the narrator of Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive (1797), encounters an Englishman who has converted to Islam. Once a slave like Underhill, the man now lives as a free Algerian. Describing the process that effected his transformation, he explains, "I was visited by a Mollah or Mahometan priest . . . [who] opened the great truths of the mussulman faith" (126). His conversion has been political as well as religious: in Algiers, the Christian who becomes a Muslim is also the slave who becomes a citizen. When Underhill expresses horror at this apostasy, the Englishman merely replies, I respect your prejudices . . . because I have been subject to them myself. . . . But I have conversed with the Mollah, and I am convinced of the errours of my education. Converse with him likewise. If he does not convince you, you may glory in the Christian faith; as that faith will then be founded on rational preference, and not merely on your ignorance of any other religious system. (126­27) Conversion, in this account, is a deliberative process: discussion and debate allow individuals to make reasoned choices about their beliefs. "Rational preference" stands as a corrective to the "ignorance" and "prejudice" of tradition, and conversation is the path to all kinds of liberty. This is an appealing notion, perhaps, but by placing it in the mouth of a convert to Islam, Tyler was inviting his eighteenth-century audience to receive it critically. Having made an informed decision, the Englishman also has abandoned that which, within the context of the novel, he should have held most dear. The Englishman's offer to Underhill situates The Algerine Captive within late-eighteenth-century discussions of the relationships between delibera{ 71 72...
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University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The University of North Carolina Press.
ISSN
1534-147X
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Abstract

elizabeth fenton University of Vermont Indeliberate Democracy The Politics of Religious Conversion in Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive While toiling in a quarry in Algiers, Updike Underhill, the narrator of Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive (1797), encounters an Englishman who has converted to Islam. Once a slave like Underhill, the man now lives as a free Algerian. Describing the process that effected his transformation, he explains, "I was visited by a Mollah or Mahometan priest . . . [who] opened the great truths of the mussulman faith" (126). His conversion has been political as well as religious: in Algiers, the Christian who becomes a Muslim is also the slave who becomes a citizen. When Underhill expresses horror at this apostasy, the Englishman merely replies, I respect your prejudices . . . because I have been subject to them myself. . . . But I have conversed with the Mollah, and I am convinced of the errours of my education. Converse with him likewise. If he does not convince you, you may glory in the Christian faith; as that faith will then be founded on rational preference, and not merely on your ignorance of any other religious system. (126­27)

Journal

Early American LiteratureUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 16, 2016

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