The Archaeology of Identity: Excavating Martha Jefferson's Entanglements

By Carol A. Atkinson and Carol L. Benton.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

While every American school child knows about President Thomas Jefferson, few know about his wife. Virginia Scarf’s intimate look at the "Women Jefferson Loved" added to Jefferson’s biography and seems on the surface to be a revelation of the degradation even wealthy white women lived with during the late 18th century. But what Scarf’s text really does is to provide a panoramic view of the repetitions of family patterns and then brings under the microscope the details of how we relive the painful stories of our ancestors. The authors of this paper chose to examine these patterns in Jefferson’s family history and observe them through systemic constellation theory as a way to understand that Mrs. Jefferson could do or be little else than what she was. Systemic constellation theory allows us to move past the history into the deepest cavern of the ancestral mind who, we believe, is like the proverbial archaeologist, determined to bring to the surface our most destructive patterns and entanglements for completion.

Keywords: Bert Hellinger, Systemic Constellation Theory, Martha Jefferson, Ancestral Mind

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp.61-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 478.029KB).

Dr. Carol A. Atkinson

Professor of Digital Media, Department of Communication & Sociology, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Missouri, USA

Dr. Atkinson is professor of Digital Media and Coordinator of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Central Missouri. She teaches courses in journalism history, First Amendment law, magazine design and production, and design software, as well as reporting and gender studies. She has supervised UCM’s student newspaper, various student magazines, and served as coordinator of Women’s Studies. She has authored numerous articles and papers in journalism, First Amendment law, and gender studies, and served as an officer in the Law Division of the International Communication Association. She has received nearly $25,000 in research and classroom grants. While she has spent most of her professional career as a teacher, Atkinson spent seven years in public relations and five years as a reporter, with a brief stint in radio and sports photography. She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in English and a master’s of science in journalism, both from the University of Kansas. Her doctoral work was completed at Bowling Green State University, where she was named the outstanding doctoral student for two consecutive years.

Dr. Carol L. Benton

Professor of Communication Studies, Department of Communication & Sociology, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO, USA

Dr. Benton is a professor and program coordinator of Communication Studies at the University of Central Missouri. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Interpersonal Communication, Family Communication, Listening, and Nonverbal Communication. In addition, she has taught in the area of performance studies and gender studies. She is the author of academic articles and papers exploring the performance of personal and intimate narratives. She earned both her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Speech & Theatre and Master’s of Arts in Theatre, from Eastern Michigan University. Her doctoral work in Communication with an emphasis in Performance Studies was completed at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.