"The Greatest Eloquence": James Cathcart and the Power of Words in Eighteenth-Century Barbary

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Voss, Julie R.
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Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Aesthetic subjects::Rhetoric , Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::History and philosophy subjects::History subjects::History , literacy , slavery , James Leander Cathcart , Barbery (North Africa) , personal narratives, diaries
Young American seaman James Cathcart was captured by Algerian corsairs and held captive for eleven years. During that time, he rose through the slave hierarchy to a position of relative comfort and prosperity, moves accomplished partly through his ability to navigate complex relationships and partly through the power of literacy. The written account of his experience also demonstrates the power of words in how it not only relates events but also fashions Cathcart into a hero. This essay explores the power of language through Cathcart's experiences and through his writing about those experiences.