Dr. Catherine Ingrassia Publishes New Book on Captivity in Literature

June 3, 2022

Headshot of Catherine IngrassiaIn the 17th and 18th century, British subjects’ understanding of captivity was rooted in what they experienced in their daily lives, from “domestic captivity” as part of marriage to captivity rooted in practices far more sinister – slavery and Great Britain’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Yet, when Professor Catherine Ingrassia, Ph.D., began exploring scholars’ work on British literature of the time, she noticed that many dismissed references to captivity as metaphorical when, in fact, the presence of captivity in British life was very real.

Book cover of “The condition of captivity, like the British involvement in the trade of enslaved people, was so naturalized and normalized and so widespread as to be unremarkable in literary texts. Yet, when we look closely, we see the codes for and language of captivity everywhere,” said Ingrassia, who will become interim dean of VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences on July 1. “Once we read for the codes and language of captivity, we see a very different picture of England at this time.”

This new perspective on British life — and its meaning today — is the focus of “Domestic Captivity and the British Subject, 1660-1750” (University of Virginia Press), a book by Ingrassia, a professor and chair of VCU’s Department of English, being released this month.

Read the whole article on VCU News.