Slavery appears as a figurative construct during the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, and again in the American and French revolutions, when radicals represent their treatment as a form of political slavery. What, if anything, does figurative, political slavery have to do with transatlantic slavery? In Arbitrary Rule, Mary Nyquist explores connections between political and chattel slavery by excavating the tradition of Western political thought that justifies actively opposing tyranny. She argues that as powerful rhetorical and conceptual constructs, Greco-Roman political liberty and slavery reemerge at the time of early modern Eurocolonial expansion; they help to create racialized “free” national identities and their “unfree” counterparts in non-European nations represented as inhabiting an earlier, privative age.
Arbitrary Rule is the first book to tackle political slavery’s discursive complexity, engaging Eurocolonialism, political philosophy, and literary studies, areas of study too often kept apart. Nyquist proceeds through analyses not only of texts that are canonical in political thought—by Aristotle, Cicero, Hobbes, and Locke—but also of literary works by Euripides, Buchanan, Vondel, Montaigne, and Milton, together with a variety of colonialist and political writings, with special emphasis on tracts written during the English revolution. She illustrates how “antityranny discourse,” which originated in democratic Athens, was adopted by republican Rome, and revived in early modern Western Europe, provided members of a “free” community with a means of protesting a threatened reduction of privileges or of consolidating a collective, political identity. Its semantic complexity, however, also enabled it to legitimize racialized enslavement and imperial expansion.
Throughout, Nyquist demonstrates how principles relating to political slavery and tyranny are bound up with a Roman jurisprudential doctrine that sanctions the power of life and death held by the slaveholder over slaves and, by extension, the state, its representatives, or its laws over its citizenry.
The Black Butterfly focuses on the slavery writings of three of Brazil’s literary giants—Machado de Assis, Castro Alves, and Euclides da Cunha. These authors wrote in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as Brazil moved into and then through the 1888 abolition of slavery. Assis was Brazil’s most experimental novelist; Alves was a Romantic poet with passionate liberationist politics, popularly known as “the poet of the slaves”; and da Cunha is known for the masterpiece Os Sertões (The Backlands), a work of genius that remains strangely neglected in the scholarship of transatlantic slavery.
Wood finds that all three writers responded to the memory of slavery in ways that departed from their counterparts in Europe and North America, where emancipation has typically been depicted as a moment of closure. He ends by setting up a wider literary context for his core authors by introducing a comparative study of their great literary abolitionist predecessors Luís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama and Joaquim Nabuco. The Black Butterfly is a revolutionary text that insists Brazilian culture has always refused a clean break between slavery and its aftermath. Brazilian slavery thus emerges as a living legacy subject to continual renegotiation and reinvention.
Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature
In Bound to Respect: Antebellum Narratives of Black Imprisonment, Servitude, and Bondage, 1816–1861, Keith Michael Green examines key texts that illuminate forms of black bondage and captivity that existed within and alongside slavery. In doing so, he restores to antebellum African American autobiographical writing the fascinating heterogeneity lost if the historical experiences of African Americans are attributed to slavery alone.
The book’s title is taken from the assertion by US Supreme Court chief justice Roger B. Taney in his 1857 Dred Scott decision that blacks had no rights that whites were “bound to respect.” This allusion highlights Green’s critical assertion that the dehumanizing absurdities to which defenders of slavery resorted to justify slavery only brought into more stark relief the humanity of African Americans.
A gifted storyteller, Green examines four forms of captivity: incarceration, enslavement to Native Americans, child indentured servitude, and maritime capture. By illuminating this dense penumbra of captivity beyond the strict definitions of slavery, he presents a fluid and holistic network of images, vocabulary, narratives, and history. By demonstrating how these additional forms of confinement flourished in the era of slavery, Green shows how they persisted beyond emancipation, in such a way that freed slaves did not in fact partake of “freedom” as white Americans understood it. This gap in understanding continues to bedevil contemporary American society, and Green deftly draws persuasive connections between past and present.
A vital and convincing offering to readers of literary criticism, African American studies, and American history, Green’s Bound to Respect brings fresh and nuanced insights to this fundamental chapter in the American story.
The spread of industrialism, the emergence of professionalism, and the challenge to slavery fueled an anxious debate about the meaning and value of work in antebellum America.
In chapters on Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Rebecca Harding Davis, Susan Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass, Nicholas Bromell argues that American writers generally sensed a deep affinity between the mental labor of writing and such bodily labors as blacksmithing, house building, housework, mothering, and farming. Combining literary and social history, canonical and noncanonical texts, primary source material, and contemporary theory, Bromell establishes work as an important subject of cultural criticism.
In a radically new interpretation and synthesis of highly popular 18th- and 19th-century genres, Michelle Burnham examines the literature of captivity, and, using Homi Bhabha's concept of interstitiality as a base, provides a valuable redescription of the ambivalent origins of the US national narrative. Stories of colonial captives, sentimental heroines, or fugitive slaves embody a "binary division between captive and captor that is based on cultural, national, or racial difference," but they also transcend these pre-existing antagonistic dichotomies by creating a new social space, and herein lies their emotional power. Beginning from a simple question on why captivity, particularly that of women, so often inspires a sentimental response, Burnham examines how these narratives elicit both sympathy and pleasure. The texts carry such great emotional impact precisely because they "traverse those very cultural, national, and racial boundaries that they seem so indelibly to inscribe. Captivity literature, like its heroines, constantly negotiates zones of contact," and crossing those borders reveals new cultural paradigms to the captive and, ultimately, the reader.
In Colonialism and Race in Luso-Hispanic Literature, Jerome C. Branche examines race naming and race making in the modern period (1415–1948). During this time, racism, a partner to both slavery and colonial exploitation, took myriad discursive forms, ranging from the reflections and treatises of philosophers and scientists to travel writing, novels, poetry, drama, and the grammar of everyday life. Branche’s main premise is that modern race making went hand in hand with European expansion, the colonial enterprise, and the international development of capitalism.
Branche looks at the racially partisan works of the Luso-Hispanic canon to document just how long lasting, widespread, and deep the feelings they expressed were. He also illustrates how important race as narrative has been and continues to be. Branche pays particular attention to the Portuguese travel writing of the mid-fifteenth century, Spanish drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cuban and Brazilian antislavery texts of the nineteenth century, and the Afro-Antillean negrismo movement of the twentieth century.
While Colonialism and Race in Luso-Hispanic Literature complements important studies of the 1970s and 1990s that treat black identity in the Spanish literary tradition, at the same time its range is wider than many other works because of the inclusion of the Luso-Brazilian dimension, its examination of extraliterary texts, and its coverage of a broader time frame. Branche’s marriage of postcolonial and cultural theory with his own close readings of related texts leads to a provocative reconsideration of how the Negro was portrayed in Latin American cultural discourse.
During the 1940s, in response to the charge that his writing was filled with violence, Richard Wright replied that the manner came from the matter, that the “relationship of the American Negro to the American scene [was] essentially violent,” and that he could deny neither the violence he had witnessed nor his own existence as a product of racial violence. Abdul R. JanMohamed provides extraordinary insight into Wright’s position in this first study to explain the fundamental ideological and political functions of the threat of lynching in Wright’s work and thought. JanMohamed argues that Wright’s oeuvre is a systematic and thorough investigation of what he calls the death-bound-subject, the subject who is formed from infancy onward by the imminent threat of death. He shows that with each successive work, Wright delved further into the question of how living under a constant menace of physical violence affected his protagonists and how they might “free” themselves by overcoming their fear of death and redeploying death as the ground for their struggle.
Drawing on psychoanalytic, Marxist, and phenomenological analyses, and on Orlando Patterson’s notion of social death, JanMohamed develops comprehensive, insightful, and original close readings of Wright’s major publications: his short-story collection Uncle Tom’s Children; his novels Native Son, The Outsider, Savage Holiday, and The Long Dream; and his autobiography Black Boy/American Hunger. The Death-Bound-Subject is a stunning reevaluation of the work of a major twentieth-century American writer, but it is also much more. In demonstrating how deeply the threat of death is involved in the formation of black subjectivity, JanMohamed develops a methodology for understanding the presence of the death-bound-subject in African American literature and culture from the earliest slave narratives forward.
"An arresting book that juxtaposes major and minor antebellum texts to develop its own democratic discourse. Michael Bennett writes with verve and brio, and offers some juicy surprises."—David Leverenz, University of Florida
Ever since the hallowed statement, "All men are created equal," was penned in the Declaration of Independence, it has become a historical tenet that freedom and equality were brought to American shores by the so-called Founding Fathers.
In this path-breaking study, Michael Bennett departs from tradition to argue that the democratic ideal of equality and the actual ways in which it has been practiced are grounded less in the fledgling government documents written by a handful of white men than in the actions and writings of the radical abolitionists of the nineteenth century. Bringing together key texts of both African American and European American authors, Democratic Discourses shows the important ways that abolitionist writing shaped a powerful counterculture within a slave-holding society. Bennett offers fresh new analysis through unusual pairings of authors, including Frederick Douglass with Henry David Thoreau, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper with Walt Whitman, and Margaret Fuller with Sojourner Truth. These rereadings avoid the tendency to view antebellum writing as a product primarily of either European American or African American influences and, instead, illustrate the interconnections of white and black literature in the creation and practice of democracy.
Drawing on discourses about race, the body, gender, economics, and aesthetics, this unique study encourages readers to reconsider the reality and roots of freedoms experienced in the United States today.
Dreams for Dead Bodies: Blackness, Labor, and the Corpus of American Detective Fiction offers new arguments about the origins of detective fiction in the United States, tracing the lineage of the genre back to unexpected texts and uncovering how authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Pauline Hopkins, and Rudolph Fisher made use of the genre’s puzzle-elements to explore the shifting dynamics of race and labor in America.
The author constructs an interracial genealogy of detective fiction to create a nuanced picture of the ways that black and white authors appropriated and cultivated literary conventions that coalesced in a recognizable genre at the turn of the twentieth century. These authors tinkered with detective fiction’s puzzle-elements to address a variety of historical contexts, including the exigencies of chattel slavery, the erosion of working-class solidarities by racial and ethnic competition, and accelerated mass production. Dreams for Dead Bodies demonstrates that nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature was broadly engaged with detective fiction, and that authors rehearsed and refined its formal elements in literary works typically relegated to the margins of the genre. By looking at these margins, the book argues, we can better understand the origins and cultural functions of American detective fiction.
This study explores contemporary novels, films, performances, and reenactments that depict American slavery and its traumatic effects by invoking a time-travel paradigm to produce a representational strategy of "bodily epistemology." Disrupting the prevailing view of traumatic knowledge that claims that traumatic events are irretrievable and accessible only through oblique reference, these novels and films circumvent the notion of indirect reference by depicting a replaying of the past, forcing present-day protagonists to witness and participate in traumatic histories that for them are neither dead nor past. Lisa Woolfork cogently analyzes how these works deploy a representational strategy that challenges the divide between past and present, imparting to their recreations of American slavery a physical and emotional energy to counter America's apathetic or amnesiac attitude about the trauma of the slave past.
Lenora Warren tells a new story about the troubled history of abolition and slave violence by examining representations of shipboard mutiny and insurrection in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Anglo-American and American literature. Fire on the Water centers on five black sailors, whose experiences of slavery and insurrection either inspired or found resonance within fiction: Olaudah Equiano, Denmark Vesey, Joseph Cinqué, Madison Washington, and Washington Goode. These stories of sailors, both real and fictional, reveal how the history of mutiny and insurrection is both shaped by, and resistant to, the prevailing abolitionist rhetoric surrounding the efficacy of armed rebellion as a response to slavery. Pairing well-known texts with lesser-known figures (Billy Budd and Washington Goode) and well-known figures with lesser-known texts (Denmark Vesey and the work of John Howison), this book reveals the richness of literary engagement with the politics of slave violence.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
The Freedom to Remember examines contemporary literary revisions of slavery in the United States by black women writers. The narratives at the center of this book include: Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, J. California Cooper’s Family, and Lorene Cary’s The Price of a Child.
Recent studies have investigated these works only from the standpoint of victimization. Angelyn Mitchell changes the conceptualization of these narratives, focusing on the theme of freedom, not slavery, defining these works as “liberatory narratives.” These works create a space to problematize the slavery/freedom dichotomy from which contemporary black women writers have the “safe” vantage point to reveal aspects of enslavement that their ancestors could not examine. The nineteenth-century female emancipatory narrative, by contrast, was written to aid the cause of abolition by revealing the unspeakable realitiesof slavery. Mitchell shows how the liberatory narrative functions to emancipate its readers from the legacies of slavery in American society: by facilitating a deeper discussion of the issues and by making them new through illumination and interrogation.
The French slave trade forced more than one million Africans across the Atlantic to the islands of the Caribbean. It enabled France to establish Saint-Domingue, the single richest colony on earth, and it connected France, Africa, and the Caribbean permanently. Yet the impact of the slave trade on the cultures of France and its colonies has received surprisingly little attention. Until recently, France had not publicly acknowledged its history as a major slave-trading power. The distinguished scholar Christopher L. Miller proposes a thorough assessment of the French slave trade and its cultural ramifications, in a broad, circum-Atlantic inquiry. This magisterial work is the first comprehensive examination of the French Atlantic slave trade and its consequences as represented in the history, literature, and film of France and its former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.
Miller offers a historical introduction to the cultural and economic dynamics of the French slave trade, and he shows how Enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu and Voltaire mused about the enslavement of Africans, while Rousseau ignored it. He follows the twists and turns of attitude regarding the slave trade through the works of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century French writers, including Olympe de Gouges, Madame de Staël, Madame de Duras, Prosper Mérimée, and Eugène Sue. For these authors, the slave trade was variously an object of sentiment, a moral conundrum, or an entertaining high-seas “adventure.” Turning to twentieth-century literature and film, Miller describes how artists from Africa and the Caribbean—including the writers Aimé Césaire, Maryse Condé, and Edouard Glissant, and the filmmakers Ousmane Sembene, Guy Deslauriers, and Roger Gnoan M’Bala—have confronted the aftermath of France’s slave trade, attempting to bridge the gaps between silence and disclosure, forgetfulness and memory.
In this study of literature and law before and since the Civil War, Stephen M. Best shows how American conceptions of slavery, property, and the idea of the fugitive were profoundly interconnected. The Fugitive's Properties uncovers a poetics of intangible, personified property emerging out of antebellum laws, circulating through key nineteenth-century works of literature, and informing cultural forms such as blackface minstrelsy and early race films.
Best also argues that legal principles dealing with fugitives and indebted persons provided a sophisticated precursor to intellectual property law as it dealt with rights in appearance, expression, and other abstract aspects of personhood. In this conception of property as fleeting, indeed fugitive, American law preserved for much of the rest of the century slavery's most pressing legal imperative: the production of personhood as a market commodity. By revealing the paradoxes of this relationship between fugitive slave law and intellectual property law, Best helps us to understand how race achieved much of its force in the American cultural imagination. A work of ambitious scope and compelling cross-connections, The Fugitive's Properties sets new agendas for scholars of American literature and legal culture.
Inspired by the searing story of Margaret Garner, the escaped slave who in 1856 slit her daughter's throat rather than have her forced back into slavery, the essays in this collection focus on historical and contemporary examples of slavery and women's resistance to oppression from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first. Each chapter uses Garner's example--the real-life narrative behind Toni Morrison's Beloved andthe opera Margaret Garner--as a thematic foundation for an interdisciplinary conversation about gendered resistance in locations including Brazil, Yemen, India, and the United States.
Contributors are Nailah Randall Bellinger, Olivia Cousins, Mary E. Frederickson, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche, Carolyn Mazloomi, Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, Catherine Roma, Huda Seif, S. Pearl Sharp, Raquel Luciana de Souza, Jolene Smith, Veta Tucker, Delores M. Walters, Diana Williams, and Kristine Yohe.
Questions traditional assumptions about power and agency in slave women's everyday lives.
Through their open defiance, women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth had a significant impact on the institution of slavery. But what of the countless other women who did not commit public or even private acts of resistance? Are their stories worthy of our attention? While some scholars imply that only the struggle for freedom was legitimate, Jenny Sharpe complicates the linear narrative-from slavery to freedom and literacy-that emerged from the privileging of autobiographical accounts like that of Frederick Douglass. She challenges a paradigm that equates agency with resistance and self-determination, and introduces new ways to examine negotiations for power within the constraints of slavery.
In Ghosts of Slavery, Sharpe introduces a wider range of everyday practices by examining the lives of three distinctive Caribbean women: a maroon leader, a mulatto concubine, and a fugitive slave. Through them she explains how the diasporic experience of slavery enabled black women to claim an authority that they didn't possess in Africa; how concubines empowered themselves through their mimicry of white women; and how less-privileged slave women manipulated situations that they were powerless to change. Finding the highly mediated portrayal of slave women in the historical records limited and sometimes misleading, Sharpe turns to unconventional sources for investigating these women's lives. In this fascinating and historically rich account, she calls for new strategies of reading that question traditional narratives of history, and she finds alternative ways to integrate oral storytelling, slave songs, travel writing, court documents, proslavery literature, and contemporary literature into black history.
Ultimately, this layered approach not only produces a more complex picture of the slave women's agency than conventional readings, it encourages a more nuanced understanding of the roles of slaves in the history of slavery.
Jenny Sharpe is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text (1993).
This collection seeks to place Pudd’nhead Wilson—a neglected, textually fragmented work of Mark Twain’s—in the context of contemporary critical approaches to literary studies. The editors’ introduction argues the virtues of using Pudd’nhead Wilson as a teaching text, a case study in many of the issues presently occupying literary criticism: issues of history and the uses of history, of canon formation, of textual problematics, and finally of race, class, and gender.
In a variety of ways the essays build arguments out of, not in spite of, the anomalies, inconsistencies, and dead ends in the text itself. Such wrinkles and gaps, the authors find, are the symptoms of an inconclusive, even evasive, but culturally illuminating struggle to confront and resolve difficult questions bearing on race and sex. Such fresh, intellectually enriching perspectives on the novel arise directly from the broad-based interdisciplinary foundations provided by the participating scholars. Drawing on a wide variety of critical methodologies, the essays place the novel in ways that illuminate the world in which it was produced and that further promise to stimulate further study.
Contributors. Michael Cowan, James M. Cox, Susan Gillman, Myra Jehlen, Wilson Carey McWilliams, George E. Marcus, Carolyn Porter, Forrest Robinson, Michael Rogin, John Carlos Rowe, John Schaar, Eric Sundquist
Modernity Disavowed is a pathbreaking study of the cultural, political, and philosophical significance of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Revealing how the radical antislavery politics of this seminal event have been suppressed and ignored in historical and cultural records over the past two hundred years, Sibylle Fischer contends that revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal are central to the formation and understanding of Western modernity. She develops a powerful argument that the denial of revolutionary antislavery eventually became a crucial ingredient in a range of hegemonic thought, including Creole nationalism in the Caribbean and G. W. F. Hegel’s master-slave dialectic.
Fischer draws on history, literary scholarship, political theory, philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory to examine a range of material, including Haitian political and legal documents and nineteenth-century Cuban and Dominican literature and art. She demonstrates that at a time when racial taxonomies were beginning to mutate into scientific racism and racist biology, the Haitian revolutionaries recognized the question of race as political. Yet, as the cultural records of neighboring Cuba and the Dominican Republic show, the story of the Haitian Revolution has been told as one outside politics and beyond human language, as a tale of barbarism and unspeakable violence. From the time of the revolution onward, the story has been confined to the margins of history: to rumors, oral histories, and confidential letters. Fischer maintains that without accounting for revolutionary antislavery and its subsequent disavowal, Western modernity—including its hierarchy of values, depoliticization of social goals having to do with racial differences, and privileging of claims of national sovereignty—cannot be fully understood.
A multifaceted exploration of memory, mothering, literature, and postcoloniality.
Blending the personal and the historical, the practical and the theoretical, Angelita Reyes draws on a wide range of texts from Africa and the African diaspora to establish mothering as a paradigm of progressive feminisms. Reyes creates a comparative dialogue among the fictions of five postcolonial women writers: Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Jean Rhys, and Mariama BÃ¢.
Reyes discusses the theme of mothering as a human reality, as a paradigm for cultural crossings, and as what she refers to as autobiographical memory-telling. Not only does her work explore the fraught relationships among memory, history, and mothering, but it also questions conventional ways of approaching the often fragmented testimony and artifacts of the lives of women of African descent.
Finally, Reyes uses memory-telling to present the autobiography of her own mother, whose extended American family said she "married a Spanish Negro who don't speak good English." Her blending of authorial, critical, historical, and autobiographical voices in this work extends our understanding of the cross-cultural ideas of mothering.
Angelita Reyes is associate professor and Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Afro-American and African Studies and the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota.
Novel Bondage unravels the interconnections between marriage, slavery, and freedom through renewed readings of canonical nineteenth-century novels and short stories by black and white authors. Situating close readings of fiction alongside archival material concerning the actual marriages of authors such as Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, and Frank J. Webb, Chakkalakal examines how these early novels established literary conventions for describing the domestic lives of American slaves in describing their aspirations for personal and civic freedom. Exploring this theme in post-Civil War works by Frances E.W. Harper and Charles Chesnutt, she further reveals how the slave-marriage plot served as a fictional model for reforming marriage laws. Chakkalakal invites readers to rethink the "marital work" of nineteenth-century fiction and the historical role it played in shaping our understanding of the literary and political meaning of marriage, then and now.
Race and Time urges our attention to women’s poetry in considering the cultural history of race. Building on close readings of well known and less familiar poets—including Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Sarah Louisa Forten, Hannah Flagg Gould, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sarah Piatt, Mary Eliza Tucker Lambert, Sarah Josepha Hale, Eliza Follen, and Mary Mapes Dodge—Gray traces tensions in women’s literary culture from the era of abolitionism to the rise of the Plantation tradition. She devotes a chapter to children’s verse, arguing that racial stereotypes work as “nonsense” that masks conflicts in the construction of white childhood. A compilation of the poems cited, most of which are difficult to find elsewhere, is included as an appendix.
Gray clarifies the cultural roles women’s poetry played in the nineteenth-century United States and also reveals that these poems offer a fascinating, dynamic, and diverse field for students of social and cultural history. Gray’s readings provide a rich sense of the contexts in which this poetry is embedded and examine its aesthetic and political vitality in meticulous detail, linking careful explication of the texts with analysis of the history of poetry, canons, literacy, and literary authority.
Race and Time distinguishes itself from other critical studies not only through its searching, in-depth readings but also through its sustained attention to less known poets and its departure from a Dickinson-centered model. Most significantly, it offers a focus on race, demonstrating how changes in both the U.S. racial structure and women’s place in public culture set the terms for change in how women poets envisioned the relationship between poetry and social power.
Gray’s work makes contributions to several fields of study: poetry, U.S. literary history and American studies, women’s studies, African American studies and whiteness studies, children’s literature, and cultural studies. While placing the works of figures who have been treated elsewhere (e.g., Dickinson and Harper) into revealing new relationships, Race and Time does much to open interdisciplinary discussion of unfamiliar works.
In Reimagining the Middle Passage: Black Resistance in Literature, Television, and Song, Tara T. Green turns to twentieth- and recent twenty-first-century representations of the Middle Passage created by African-descended artists and writers. Examining how these writers and performers revised and reimagined the Middle Passage in their work, Green argues that they recognized it as a historical and geographical site of trauma as well as a symbol for a place of understanding and change. Their work represents the legacy African captives left for resisting “social death” (the idea that Black life does not matter), but it also highlights strong resistance to that social death (the idea that it does matter).
Exploring the presence of water and its impact on African descendants,Reimagining the Middle Passageoffers fresh analyses of Alex Haley’sRootsand the television adaptations; the history of flooding in Black communities in literature such as Jesmyn Ward’sSalvage the Bonesand Paule Marshall’sPraisesong for the Widow, in blues songs, and in television shows such asTreme; and stories of resistance found in myths associated with Marie Laveau and flying Africans.
Though one of America’s best known and loved novels, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been the object of fierce controversy because of its racist language and reliance on racial stereotypes. This collection of fifteen essays by prominent African American scholars and critics examines the novel’s racist elements and assesses the degree to which Twain’s ironies succeed or fail to turn those elements into a satirical attack on racism. Ranging from the laudatory to the openly hostile, these essays include personal impressions of Huckleberry Finn, descriptions of classroom experience with the book, evaluations of its ironic and allegorical aspects, explorations of its nineteenth-century context, and appraisal of its effects on twentieth-century African American writers. Among the issues the authors contend with are Twain’s pervasive use of the word “nigger,” his portrayal of the slave Jim according to the conventions of the minstrel show “darky,” and the thematic chaos created by the “evasion” depicted in the novel’s final chapters. Sure to provoke thought and stir debate, Satire or Evasion? provides a variety of new perspectives on one of this country’s most troubling classics.
Contributors. Richard K. Barksdale, Bernard W. Bell, Mary Kemp Davis, Peaches M. Henry, Betty Harris Jones, Rhett S. Jones, Julius Lester, Donnarae MacCann, Charles H. Nichols, Charles H. Nilon, Arnold Rampersad, David L. Smith, Carmen Dubryan, John H. Wallace, Kenny Jackson Williams, Fredrick Woodard
Searching for Jim is the untold story of Sam Clemens and the world of slavery that produced him. Despite Clemens’s remarks to the contrary in his autobiography, slavery was very much a part of his life. Dempsey has uncovered a wealth of newspaper accounts and archival material revealing that Clemens’s life, from the ages of twelve to seventeen, was intertwined with the lives of the slaves around him.
During Sam’s earliest years, his father, John Marshall Clemens, had significant interaction with slaves. Newly discovered court records show the senior Clemens in his role as justice of the peace in Hannibal enforcing the slave ordinances. With the death of his father, young Sam was apprenticed to learn the printing and newspaper trade. It was in the newspaper that slaves were bought and sold, masters sought runaways, and life insurance was sold on slaves. Stories the young apprentice typeset helped Clemens learn to write in black dialect, a skill he would use throughout his writing, most notably in Huckleberry Finn.
Missourians at that time feared abolitionists across the border in Illinois and Iowa. Slave owners suspected every traveling salesman, itinerant preacher, or immigrant of being an abolition agent sent to steal slaves. This was the world in which Sam Clemens grew up. Dempsey also discusses the stories of Hannibal’s slaves: their treatment, condition, and escapes. He uncovers new information about the Underground Railroad, particularly about the role free blacks played in northeast Missouri.
Carefully reconstructed from letters, newspaper articles, sermons, speeches, books, and court records, Searching for Jim offers a new perspective on Clemens’s writings, especially regarding his use of race in the portrayal of individual characters, their attitudes, and worldviews. This fascinating volume will be valuable to anyone trying to measure the extent to which Clemens transcended the slave culture he lived in during his formative years and the struggles he later faced in dealing with race and guilt. It will forever alter the way we view Sam Clemens, Hannibal, and Mark Twain.
Long seen by writers as a vital political force of the nation, children’s literature has been an important means not only of mythologizing a certain racialized past but also, because of its intended audience, of promoting a specific racialized future. Stories about slavery for children have served as primers for racial socialization. This first comprehensive study of slavery in children’s literature, Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790–2010, also historicizes the ways generations of authors have drawn upon antebellum literature in their own re-creations of slavery. It examines well-known, canonical works alongside others that have ostensibly disappeared from contemporary cultural knowledge but have nonetheless both affected and reflected the American social consciousness in the creation of racialized images.
Beginning with abolitionist and proslavery views in antebellum children’s literature, Connolly examines how successive generations reshaped the genres of the slave narrative, abolitionist texts, and plantation novels to reflect the changing contexts of racial politics in America. From Reconstruction and the end of the nineteenth century, to the early decades of the twentieth century, to the civil rights era, and into the twenty-first century, these antebellum genres have continued to find new life in children’s literature—in, among other forms, neoplantation novels, biographies, pseudoabolitionist adventures, and neo-slave narratives.
As a literary history of how antebellum racial images have been re-created or revised for new generations, Slavery in American Children’s Literature ultimately offers a record of the racial mythmaking of the United States from the nation’s beginning to the present day.
Slaves and Other Objects
Page duBois University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress HT1234.D83 2003 | Dewey Decimal 305.567
Page duBois, a classicist known for her daring and originality, turns in this new book to one of the most troubling subjects in the study of antiquity: the indispensability of slaves in ancient Greece. DuBois argues that every object and text in the world of ancient Greece bears the marks of slavery and the need to reiterate the distinction between slave and free. And yet the ubiquity of slaves in ancient societies has been overlooked by scholars who idealize antiquity, misconstrued by those who view slavery through the lens of race, and obscured by the split between historical and philological approaches to the classics.
DuBois begins her study by exploring the material culture of slavery, including how most museum exhibits erase the presence of slaves in the classical world. Shifting her focus to literature, she considers the place of slaves in Plato's Meno, Aristotle's Politics, Aesop's Fables, Aristophanes' Wasps, and Euripides' Orestes. She contends throughout that portraying the difference between slave and free as natural was pivotal to Greek concepts of selfhood and political freedom, and that scholars who idealize such concepts too often fail to recognize the role that slavery played in their articulation.
Opening new lines of inquiry into ancient culture, Slaves and Other Objects will enlighten classicists and historians alike.
In The Slumbering Volcano, Maggie Montesinos Sale investigates depictions of nineteenth-century slave ship revolts to explore the notion of rebellion in formulations of United States national identity. Analyzing how such revolts inspired citizens to debate whether political theory directed at free men could be extended toward blacks, Sale compares the reception of fictionalized versions of ship revolts published in the 1850s—Benito Cereno by Herman Melville and The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass—with the previous decade’s public accounts of actual rebellions by enslaved people on the ships Amistad and Creole. This comparison of narrative response with written public reaction to the actual revolts allows Sale to investigate the precise manner in which public opinion regarding definitions of liberty evolved over this crucial period of time between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Mapping the ways in which unequally empowered groups claimed and transformed statements associated with the discourse of national identity, Sale succeeds in recovering a historically informed sense of the discursive and activist options available to people of another era. In its demonstration of how the United States has been uniquely shaped by its dual status as both an imperial and a postcolonial power, this study on the discourse of natural rights and national identity in the pre-Civil War United States will interest students and scholars of American studies, African American studies, gender studies, and American history and literature.
Staging Black Fugitivity
Stacie Selmon McCormick The Ohio State University Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS338.N4M33 2019 | Dewey Decimal 812.5409896073
Staging Black Fugitivity asks: How does drama constitute an important site for ongoing conversations about slavery’s resonance and its legacies? To answer this question, Stacie Selmon McCormick charts the historical turn toward slavery in black drama that began in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This movement, spearheaded by August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks, has been largely under-theorized, yet it participates in and advances the neo-slave narrative genre—with contemporary black dramas enhancing the neo-slave narrative’s capacity to represent the visual, corporal, and affective dimensions of the black body and slavery as an institution.
McCormick traces the innovative ways that artists render slavery for present-day audiences. The dramas assembled in this book approach slavery from myriad perspectives—afrofuturist, feminist, and queer—in order to produce new imaginaries that offer more complex depictions of black experience. Through subverting notions of time, race, gender, and familiar histories of slavery themselves, the dramas under discussion produce performances of fugitivity—subversive, radical, and experimental performances of black artistic and political freedom at the site of slavery.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself (1789) is one of the most frequently and heatedly discussed texts in the canon of eighteenth-century transatlantic literature written in English. Equiano’s Narrative contains an engrossing account of the author’s experiences in Africa, the Americas, and Europe as he sought freedom from bondage and became a leading figure in the abolitionist movement. While scholars have approached this sophisticated work from diverse critical and historical/biographical perspectives, there has been, until now, little written about the ways in which it can be successfully taught in the twenty-first-century classroom.
In this collection of essays, most of them never before published, sixteen teacher-scholars focus explicitly on the various classroom contexts in which the Narrative can be assigned and various pedagogical strategies that can be used to help students understand the text and its complex cultural, intellectual, literary, and historical implications. The contributors explore topics ranging from the religious dimensions of Equiano’s rhetoric and controversies about his origins, specifically whether he was actually born in Africa and endured the Middle Passage, to considerations of the Narrative’s place in American Literature survey courses and how it can be productively compared to other texts, including captivity narratives and modern works of fiction. They not only suggest an array of innovative teaching models but also offer new readings of the work that have been overlooked in Equiano studies and Slavery studies. With these two dimensions, this volume will help ensure that conversations over Equiano’s eighteenth-century autobiography remain relevant and engaging to today’s students.
ERIC D. LAMORE is an assistant professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. A contributor to The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry, he is also the coeditor, with John C. Shields, of New Essays on Phillis Wheatley.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the Apotropaic Imagination investigates Toni Morrison’s Beloved in light of ancient Greek influences, arguing that the African American experience depicted in the novel can be set in a broader context than is usually allowed. Kathleen Marks gives a history of the apotropaic from ancient to modern times, and shows the ways that Beloved’sprotagonist, Sethe, and her community engage the apotropaic as a mode of dealing with their communal suffering.
Apotropaic, from the Greek, meaning “to turn away from,” refers to rituals that were performed in ancient times to ward off evil deities. Modern scholars use the term to denote an action that, in attempting to prevent an evil, causes that very evil. Freud employed the apotropaic to explain his thought concerning Medusa and the castration complex, and Derrida found the apotropaic’s logic of self-sabotage consonant with his own thought.
Marks draws on this critical history and argues that Morrison’s heroine’s effort to keep the past at bay is apotropaic: a series of gestures aimed at resisting a danger, a threat, an imperative. These gestures anticipate, mirror, and put into effect that which they seek to avoid—one does what one finds horrible so as to mitigate its horror. In Beloved, Sethe’s killing of her baby reveals this dynamic: she kills the baby in order to save it. As do all great heroes, Sethe transgresses boundaries, and such transgressions bring with them terrific dangers: for example, the figure Beloved. Yet Sethe’s action has ritualistic undertones that link it to the type of primal crimes that can bring relief to a petrified community. It is through these apotropaic gestures that the heroine and the community resist what Morrison calls “cultural amnesia” and engage in a shared past, finally inaugurating a new order of love.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the Apotropaic Imagination is eclectic in its approach—calling upon Greek religion, Greek mythology and underworld images, and psychology. Marks looks at the losses and benefits of the kind of self-damage/self-agency the apotropaic affords. Such an approach helps to frame the questions of the role of suffering in human life, the relation between humans and the underworld, and the uses of memory and history.
Since its inception, the United States has been intensely preoccupied with interracialism. The concept is embedded everywhere in our social and political fabric, including our sense of national identity. And yet, in both its quantitative and symbolic forms, interracialism remains an extremely elusive phenomenon, causing policy makers and census boards to wrangle over how to delineate it and, on an emblematic level, stirring intense emotions from fear to fascination.
In The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited, Eve Allegra Raimon focuses on the mixed-race female slave in literature, arguing that this figure became a symbolic vehicle for explorations of race and nation—both of which were in crisis in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, judicial, statutory, social, and scientific debates about the meaning of racial difference (and intermixture) coincided with disputes over frontier expansion, which were never merely about land acquisition but also literally about the “complexion” of that frontier. Embodying both northern and southern ideologies, the “amalgamated” mulatta, the author argues, can be viewed as quintessentially American, a precursor to contemporary motifs of “hybrid” and “mestizo” identities.
Where others have focused on the gendered and racially abject position of the “tragic mulatta,” Raimonreconsiders texts by such central antislavery writers as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Wilson to suggest that the figure is more usefully examined as a way of understanding the volatile and shifting interface of race and national identity in the antebellum period.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin broke publishing records and made Harriet Beecher Stowe in her time one of the world’s most famous authors. The book was a bestseller in Britain and was translated into some forty languages. Yet today Stowe tends to be seen wholly in the context of American literary history. Transatlantic Stowe: Harriet Beecher Stowe and European Culture is the first book to consider multiple aspects of Stowe’s career in an international context. The groundbreaking essays of Transatlantic Stowe examine the author’s literary and literal forays in Europe and the ways in which intellectual and cultural exchanges between the Old and New Worlds shaped her work. It was a crucial moment in the transatlantic discourse, a turning of the tide, and Stowe was among the first American novelists to be lionized in Europe---and pirated by publishers---in the same way that European writers had been treated in America.Blending historical and cultural criticism and drawing on fresh primary material from London and Paris, Transatlantic Stowe includes essays exploring Stowe’s relationship with European writers and the influence of her European travels on her work, especially the controversial travel narrative Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands and her “Italian novel” Agnes of Sorrento.Interdisciplinary and itself transatlantic, the collection discusses visual art and material culture as well as literature and politics and includes contributions from Britain, Ireland, and the United States. Together these essays offer new interpretations of Stowe’s most popular novel as well as new readings of her many other works, illuminate the myriad connections between Stowe and European writers, and thus rewrite literary history by returning Stowe to the larger political, historical, and literary contexts of nineteenth-century Europe.
In Tropicopolitans Srinivas Aravamudan reconstructs the colonial imagination of the eighteenth century. By exploring representations of peoples and cultures subjected to colonial discourse, he makes a case for the agency—or the capacity to resist domination—of those oppressed. Aravamudan’s analysis of texts that accompanied European commercial and imperial expansion from the Glorious Revolution through the French Revolution reveals the development of anticolonial consciousness prior to the nineteenth century. “Tropicalization” is the central metaphor of this analysis, a term that incorporates both the construction of various dynamic tropes by which the colonized are viewed and the site of the study, primarily the tropics. Tropicopolitans, then, are those people who bear and resist the representations of colonialist discourse. In readings that expose new relationships between literary representation and colonialism in the eighteenth century, Aravamudan considers such texts as Behn’s Oroonoko, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton, Addison’s Cato, and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and The Drapier’s Letters. He extends his argument to include analyses of Johnson’s Rasselas, Beckford’s Vathek, Montagu’s travel letters, Equiano’s autobiography, Burke’s political and aesthetic writings, and Abbé de Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes. Offering a radical approach to literary history, this study provides new mechanisms for understanding the development of anticolonial agency. Introducing eighteenth-century studies to a postcolonial hermeneutics, Tropicopolitans will interest scholars engaged in postcolonial studies, eighteenth-century literature, and literary theory.
As Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin traveled around the world, it was molded by the imaginations and needs of international audiences. For over 150 years it has been coopted for a dazzling array of causes far from what its author envisioned. This book tells thirteen variants of Uncle Tom’s journey, explicating the novel’s significance for Canadian abolitionists and the Liberian political elite that constituted the runaway characters’ landing points; nineteenth-century French theatergoers; liberal Cuban, Romanian, and Spanish intellectuals and social reformers; Dutch colonizers and Filipino nationalists in Southeast Asia; Eastern European Cold War communists; Muslim readers and spectators in the Middle East; Brazilian television audiences; and twentieth-century German holidaymakers.
Throughout these encounters, Stowe’s story of American slavery serves as a paradigm for understanding oppression, selectively and strategically refracting the African American slave onto other iconic victims and freedom fighters. The book brings together performance historians, literary critics, and media theorists to demonstrate how the myriad cultural and political effects of Stowe’s enduring story has transformed it into a global metanarrative with national, regional, and local specificity.
How did slavery and race impact American literature in the nineteenth century? In this ambitious book, Michael T. Gilmore argues that they were the carriers of linguistic restriction, and writers from Frederick Douglass to Stephen Crane wrestled with the demands for silence and circumspection that accompanied the antebellum fear of disunion and the postwar reconciliation between the North and South.
Proposing a radical new interpretation of nineteenth-century American literature, The War on Words examines struggles over permissible and impermissible utterance in works ranging from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” to Henry James’s The Bostonians. Combining historical knowledge with groundbreaking readings of some of the classic texts of the American past, The War on Words places Lincoln’s Cooper Union address in the same constellation as Margaret Fuller’s feminism and Thomas Dixon’s defense of lynching. Arguing that slavery and race exerted coercive pressure on freedom of expression, Gilmore offers here a transformative study that alters our understanding of nineteenth-century literary culture and its fraught engagement with the right to speak.
Modern scholars often find it difficult to account for the profound eccentricities in the work of William Blake, dismissing them as either ahistorical or simply meaningless. But with this pioneering study, Saree Makdisi develops a reliable and comprehensive framework for understanding these peculiarities. According to Makdisi, Blake's poetry and drawings should compel us to reconsider the history of the 1790s. Tracing for the first time the many links among economics, politics, and religion in his work, Makdisi shows how Blake questioned and even subverted the commercial, consumerist, and political liberties that his contemporaries championed, all while developing his own radical aesthetic.
Frances Foster's classic study of pre-Civil War American slave autobiography is now issued in an accessible paperback edition. The first book to represent these slave narratives as literary in the complete sense of the word, and the first study to call attention to the significance of gender in the narratives, Witnessing Slavery will be welcomed by both general readers and students of the American south, slavery, the Civil War, and race issues.