U.S. women's Holy Land writings—a body of novels, travel narratives, and children's literature—uniquely illustrate Americans' complex and often conflicting imperialist and religious investments in the Near East. U.S. women writers embraced the Holy Land as an extranational domestic space, a spiritual and prenational homeland that empowered American women as their nation's presumed spiritual guardians. From the 1840s through the 1890s, the American woman that was represented in women's Holy Land writings bound and reconciled the political and spiritual forces at work in the Holy Land, especially during times of national vulnerability. In the late 1850s and 1860, when the outbreak of sectarian violence in Mount Lebanon provoked further anxiety about growing sectional and racial hostilities in the United States, women writers imagined the American woman capable of reordering a contentious, religiously diverse society. The multicultural community that women writers envisioned, however, was founded on the subordination of religious and racial others; moreover, women's Holy Land writings conflated religious and racial otherness as a way of containing difference. The Muslim-Arab became the emblem of this conflation, a figure both immoral and unalterable. Despite the dangers this Muslim-Arab posed to diverse society, he was represented as mollified by the American woman's pious presence. An inherent deference for U.S. domesticity, these women writers suggested, can compel religious-racial others to submit willingly to a clearly hierarchized social order. Innate piety enabled the American woman to reconfigure class in the Holy Land and make diversity safe, in turn reinforcing the Holy Land as a feminine domain.
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Molly Robey; Sacred Geographies: Religion and Race in Women's Holy Land Writings. American Literature 1 September 2008; 80 (3): 471–500. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2008-019
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