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Linguaculture

The Journal of Linguaculture Centre for (Inter)cultural and (Inter)lingual Research, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi

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Suturing a Wounded Body—Wounded Mind in Red Silk on White Linen: Embodied and Hand(Y) Knowledge of Trauma

Maureen Daly Goggin
  • Arizona State University, U.S.A.
Published Online: 2013-02-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0016-4

Abstract

In 1830, Elizabeth Parker, daughter of a day laborer and of a teacher in Ashburnham, East Sussex, England, cross-stitched in red silk thread an extraordinarily complex text that participates in several genres, including a memoir of her then brief life of some seventeen years, a confession, a suicide note, and a prayer. These various genres cohere around one momentous event in Parker’s young life: the sexual violation and physical abuse at the hands of her employer, Lt. G. After suturing 46 lines, 1,722 words, and 6,699 characters, she stops mid-line and mid-way down her cloth with the powerful plea, “What will become of my soul[?]” This paper argues that Parker’s sampler was a robust site in which Parker was able to grapple with her wounded body and mind. To justify the claim that a woman’s stitching can be interpreted as an epistemic activity, the proposed paper turns to two key concepts “situated knowledges” and “embodied knowledge”- both of which have been posited by feminists as a way to destabilize the dominant validation of disembodied, abstract thinking where the eye serves as the mind’s tool of investigation. (Haraway; Knappett; Frank; Driver)

Keywords: feminism; rhetoric; material culture

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About the article

I want to acknowledge the generous assistance of the following textiles historians and keepers who kindly answered numerous questions, shared materials with me, and gave me access to rare samplers: Clare Browne, Curator of Textiles and Dress, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Costume and Decorative Art, Museum of London; Carol Humphrey, Honorary Keeper, Textiles, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England; and Joy Jarrett and Rebecca Scott of Witney Antiques, Oxfordshire, England. I also want to acknowledge the following people for their invaluable help: Chris Marsden and the staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum Archives; Jennifer Nash and the staff at the East Sussex Records Office in Lewes; the staff at the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester; the staff at the Family Records Centre in London; and the staff at the Public Records Office in Kew. A version of this essay appears in Women and the Material Culture of Needlework and Textiles, 1750-1950, edited by Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2009. 17-42.


Published Online: 2013-02-12

Published in Print: 2012-12-01


Citation Information: Linguaculture, ISSN (Online) 2067-9696, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0016-4.

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