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Catalog Archive / Spring 2021

Resurrecting the First Great American Play
Imperial Politics and Colonial Ambitions in Frontier Detroit

“Arguing that Robert Rogers’s only play is of genuine literary value, as well as being a significant historical document in the history of settler representations of Indigeneity, Ludwig’s book offers a valuable contribution to early American theater studies.”
—Tiffany Potter, University of British Columbia

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Ottawa chief Pontiac (also spelled Ponteach) led an intertribal confederacy that resisted British power in the Great Lakes region. This event was immortalized in the play Ponteach, or the Savages of America: A Tragedy. The work, attributed to the infamous frontier soldier Robert Rogers, was never performed. Yet it is one of the earliest theatrical renderings of the region, depicting its hero in a way that called into question eighteenth-century constructions of Indigenous Americans.

Sämi Ludwig contends that Ponteach’s literary and artistic merits are worthy of further exploration. He investigates questions of authorship and analyzes the play’s content, embracing its many contradictions as enriching windows into the era. In this way, he suggests using Ponteach as a tool to better understand British imperialism in North America and the emerging theatrical forms of the Young Republic.


Author. Photo credit, Name Sämi Ludwig is a professor of American studies at the Université de Haute Alsace, Mulhouse. He is the author of Concrete Language: Intercultural Communication in Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior” and Ishmael Reed’s “Mumbo Jumbo” and Pragmatist Realism: The Cognitive Paradigm in American Realist Texts.




“Long ignored or dismissed for its supposed aesthetic defects, Robert Rogers’s Ponteach here receives a full reassessment for its historical significance and its formal qualities. Sämi Ludwig’s engaged and engaging scholarship goes a long way toward making a new space for this early Indian drama in the corpus of British, American, and Canadian literature.”
—Werner Sollors, Harvard University

“A fascinating look at the intersection of history, drama, and biography in early America. By focusing on a little-known drama by a pre-Revolutionary British soldier and adventurer, Sämi Ludwig opens new insight to the world of settler colonialism from which the United States would emerge—and never altogether discard.”
—Paul Lauter, Trinity College



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Resurrecting the First Great American Play: Cover showing a white background with drawings of two men placed horizontally on the page. The man on the top is wearing a hat and raising a hand in a wave. The man on the bottom has a mohawk and is wearing green. Both men are holding gun and wearing snow shoes.

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June 2021
LC: 2019019125 PS
304 pp. 6 x 9
21 b/w illus.

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Paper $21.95 S
ISBN 9780299325442
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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299325404
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