Le Mélange of Francophone Culture in William Wells Brown’s Clotel

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-05-07 21:36Z by Steven

Le Mélange of Francophone Culture in William Wells Brown’s Clotel

The Undergraduate Review
Volume 7, Issue 1 (2011)
pages 8-11

Sandra Andrade
Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts

In Clotel; Or, The President’s Daughter, William Wells Brown argues that for fugitive African American slaves France represented freedom. This connection between African Americans and France that is familiar to many Americans in the twentieth century was existent at the time of Brown’s own escape. The Francophone culture became a major motivator in the author’s personal life and also in his writings. This project covers many themes, including the “tragic mulatta”, American identity, American freedom and slavery, and explores readings from Anna Brickhouse’s Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere, and Eve A. Raimon’s The Tragic Mulatta Revisited. Brown questions not only the impossibility of being accepted in the American society as a person of mixed race but argues that the French are better interpreters of the Declaration of Independence than the Americans. In France, Brown found a secure home among French elites and his positive experience with francophone culture helped shape his most well-known work of literature, the novel Clotel. In this sentimental novel, Brown creates a character whose hope for freedom is based upon the author’s experiences in France. Being the first western European nation to abolish slavery in its colonies, France provided hope to many African Americans.

Read the entire article here.

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Science of desire: Race and representations of the Haitian revolution in the Atlantic world, 1790-1865

Posted in Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery on 2012-04-15 16:09Z by Steven

Science of desire: Race and representations of the Haitian revolution in the Atlantic world, 1790-1865

University of Notre Dame
July 2008
489 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3436234
ISBN: 9781124353197

Marlene Leydy Daut, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California

A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Notre Dame in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation reads representations of the Haitian Revolution with and against the popular historical understanding of the events as the result of the influence of enlightenment philosophy or the Declaration of the Rights of Man on Toussaint L’Ouverture; or what I have called a “literacy narrative.” This understanding is most visible in texts such as C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (1938) and reproduces the idea that Toussaint read Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes (1772) and thus became aware that slavery was contrary to nature and was inspired to lead the revolt. Instead, I show how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century understandings of the Revolution were most often mediated through the discourse of scientific debates about racial miscegenation–an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century obsession with what happens when white people produce children with black people–making the Revolution the result of the desire for vengeance on the part of miscegenated figures, whose fathers refused to recognize or defend them, rather than a desire for the ideals of liberty and equality; or what I have called the “mulatto vengeance narrative.”

Chapter one examines the figure of the “tropical temptress” in the anonymously published epistolary romance La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803). Chapter two takes a look at “evil/degenerate mulattoes” in Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” (1855) and Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal (1826). In chapter three I analyze the trope of the “tragic mulatto/a” in French abolitionist Alphonse de Lamartine’s verse drama Toussaint L’Ouverture (1850); the Louisiana born Victor Séjour’s short story, “The Mulatto” (1837); and Haitian author Eméric Bergeaud’s Stella (1859). Chapters four and five look at the image of the “inspired mulatto” in French novelist Alexandre Dumas’s adventure novel, Georges (1843); black American writer William Wells Brown’s abolitionist speech turned pamphlet, “St. Domingo; its Revolutions and its Patriots” (1854); and the Haitian poet and dramatist Pierre Faubert’s play, Ogé; ou le préjugé de couleur (1841; 1856). By insisting on a discourse of science as a way to understand these representations, I show how these texts contributed to the pervasive after-life of the Haitian Revolution in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World, on the one hand, but also created an entire vocabulary of desire with respect to miscegenation, revolution, and slavery, on the other.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    • Part 1: Mulatto Vengeance and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 2: Literacy Narratives and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 3: Notes on Terminology
  • Chapter 1: Tropical Temptresses: Desire and Repulsion in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue
    • Part 1: The Color of Virtue
    • Part 2: Colonialism and Despotism
    • Part 3: Desire and Abolition
  • Chapter 2: Black Son, White Father: Mulatto Vengeance and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal and Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno”
    • Part 1: Victor Hugo’s Parricide
    • Part 2: Melville’s “Usher of the Golden-Rod”
  • Chapter 3: Between the Family and the Nation: Parricide and the Tragic Mulatto/a in 19th-century Fictions of the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 1: Séjour’s Oedipal Curse
    • Part 2: Toussaint’s Children
    • Part 3: Bergeaud’s Romantic Vision
  • Chapter 4: The “Inspired Mulatto:” Enlightenment and Color Prejudice in the African Diaspoa
    • Part 1: Alexandre Dumas and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 2: Economics and Civilization
    • Part 3: The “Never-to-be-forgiven course of the mulattoes”
  • Chapter 5: “Let Us Be Humane After the Victory:” Pierre Faubert’s New Humanism
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Purchase the dissertation here.

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A Tangled Text: William Wells Brown’s Clotel (1853, 1860, 1864, 1867)

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-04-14 00:57Z by Steven

A Tangled Text: William Wells Brown’s Clotel (1853, 1860, 1864, 1867)

Wesleyan University
April 2009
104 pages

Samantha Marie Sommers

A thesis submitted to the faculty of Wesleyan University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Departmental Honors in English and the American Studies Program

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • A Canonical Misfire: The Trouble With “Firstness” for Brown and Clotel
  • Capturing the Process: Clotel Makes [Its Own] Literary History
  • A Close Reading of a Tangled Text
  • Considering the Object: Reading Four Paratexts
    • Clotelle: A Tale of the Southern States
    • Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter
    • Miralda; or, The Beautiful Quadroon
    • Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited and Consulted


In 1853 William Wells Brown published Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter. This was the first of the four editions that comprise the first novel published by an African American writer. The story was based upon the popular rumor that Thomas Jefferson fathered several children with his slave mistress. Clotel follows the story of Jefferson’s lover Currer, their daughters, Clotel and Althesa, and their granddaughter, Mary, as these biracial characters live through and escape from slavery. This first Clotel was a hardcover edition published in London. From December 1860 to March 1861, a reconceived Clotel was published in Thomas Hamilton’s New York City newspaper The Weekly Anglo-African under a new title: Miralda; or, The Beautiful Quadroon. Much of the documentary style of the first edition was lost as Brown removed the numerous advertisements, newspaper accounts, poems, and other extra-narrative material contained in the 1853 Clotel. Importantly, Brown erases all references to Jefferson in this and the subsequent American volumes. In 1864 Clotel was again repackaged, this time for the American Civil War. Clotelle: A Tale of the Southern States was sold as part of James Redpath’s dime-novel series, “Books for the Camp Fires.” The text of this edition was nearly identical to Miralda, aside from several changes in characters’ names (including that of the eponymous heroine). Redpath directed the repackaging of the text, and he marketed the narrative as entertainment for the Union troops and their sympathizers. In 1867 Brown published Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine, a final version of the novel, as an American hardcover edition with new chapters that offered an updated ending for the post-bellum audience. My view of the four editions as components of a larger Clotel project takes the study of Clotel in a new direction, examining the novel as a dynamic text captured in four volumes. Traditionally, the four editions have been viewed as a sequence that measures either Brown’s political softening in response to the demands of the American literary market, or Clotel’s movement away from the obscurity of its fragmented style toward the conventions of nineteenth-century domestic fiction.

I view the four Clotels as a tangled text that necessitates a relational reading across the editions. The task of my thesis is to demonstrate the efficacy of this method of reading by exploring the different historical and political factors that motivate each edition, addressing the disparities in the readerly experience of the four texts, and tracking the movement from one print form to another. Even in the most recent work on William Wells Brown, scholars persist with their provisional treatment of the three later editions of Clotel; most egregiously, Miralda is all but disregarded in any discussion of Clotel. My approach attempts to correct this partial view of the novel. Throughout this thesis I will distinguish the four editions by year (the 1853 Clotel, 1860 Clotel, 1864 Clotel, and 1867 Clotel) or by name (Clotel, Miralda, the Redpath Clotelle, and the 1867 Clotelle.) These two naming systems reflect the connection of the editions to one another as well as the distinctiveness of each volume. By referring to the collective work as the four Clotels I wish to emphasize my view that the editions are four parts of a single project.

I first encountered the four editions of Clotel in the fall of 2007. I read the 2004 Penguin edition for my American Studies junior colloquium: Literary Studies as American Studies with Professor Charles Baraw. This edition, edited by Maria Giulia Fabi, includes three appendices that reprint the endings from each subsequent edition of Clotel. In her notes, Fabi explains important aspects of the changes across the volumes including characters’ names, the serialization of Miralda, and the deletion of certain politically critical passages from the American editions. My interest in the four editions stemmed from a curiosity about the implications of transferring a single story across three distinct print formats: the book, the newspaper, and the pamphlet. Because I came to the text with a personal interest in book design and production, I wanted to consider the effect of the design of these versions on the reception of their changing narratives. I sensed an inherent paradox in the story of four discrete objects transmitting one author’s evolving narrative in a moment of perhaps the most profound transition in national ideology. In my final paper for the course, I argued that the close readings of (what I now know to be) the “paratexts” for the four Clotels offered a powerful literary and cultural critique of the novel and its place in nineteenth century publishing. Retrospectively, I see my first encounter with the four Clotels in a single paperback edition as an impetus for my questioning the inherent connection of the later editions to the 1853 edition. Even the perfunctory representation of the American editions in the 2004 Clotel encapsulates the trouble of their minority status in contemporary scholarship, that motivates much of the work in this thesis.

My initial paper on Clotel did not resolve the relationship of the four texts to one another, but the practice of considering the four editions as elements of material culture informed the argument of this thesis: William Wells Brown’s novel Clotel is a four-volume text that must be read relationally and with attention to the materiality of each edition. It is worthwhile to study Clotel as a pamphlet, but when we can study it as a pamphlet that was once serialized in a newspaper and later became a hardcover book, we see the dynamic nature of the text. It is only when we consider four editions equally and relationally that we see how Clotel is inimitable as much for its multi-dimensionality as it is for its historical significance. By calling for this dynamic method of reading, the novel challenges our current methods for historicizing literary texts. I seek to contest the convention of canonizing a single edition of Clotel. We must abandon our reliance on the 1853 edition for critical analysis and our tendency to perform a cursory reading of the later editions of the novel. These practices cannot fully attend to the evolutionary nature of Clotel as a text that responds to four distinct historical moments, nor to the changing political motivations of a single author. We must instead read Clotel as what it truly is: a tangled text…

Read the entire thesis here.

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Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom on 2012-01-03 22:58Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
English 400.01
Fall 2008

Christine Wooley, Assistant Professor of English
This course will consider representations of passing (and thus also miscegenation) in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. culture. While passing has often been depicted-and dismissed-as an act of racial betrayal, more recent criticism has suggested that we view these depictions of racial transgression and deception in more complicated ways. In this class, we will analyze various narratives centered around passing and miscegenation as sites through which we can better examine-and understand-the construction of racial identities in particular historical and political contexts. We will ask whether or not narratives about passing and miscegenation challenge the stability of racial categories. Likewise, we will pay close attention to how such narratives also engage issues of class, ethnicity, and gender. Syllabus may include works by authors such as Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown, Lydia Maria Child, Frances Harper, William Dean Howells, Pauline Hopkins, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, Toni Morrison, and Philip Roth. In addition, this class will also draw on a selection of historical and legal documents, current critical works on race, and films such as The Jazz Singer and Imitation of Life.

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Over the river and through the woods: Miscegenation and the American experiment

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-08-12 03:04Z by Steven

Over the river and through the woods: Miscegenation and the American experiment

State University of New York at Buffalo
214 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3277744
ISBN: 9780549178705

Shelby Lucille Crosby

This dissertation examines how early American authors utilized the concept of miscegenation as a way to alter the American experiment. By invoking and exploring the paradox that Thomas Jefferson writes into existence with the Declaration of Independence and Notes on the State of Virginia, this dissertation seeks to illuminate the ways that early American authors were influenced by Jefferson’s paradoxical thoughts on race in America. How do these authors attempt to solve the Jeffersonian conundrum?

In chapter 1, “Practical Love: Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok, Miscegenation and Nation,” Child forwards miscegenation as a way to successfully combine Native American culture with Euro-American culture. In chapter 2, “The Body Politic and Cultural Miscegenation in Hope Leslie or, Early Times in the Massachusetts, ” I am intrigued by Sedgwick’s character, Magawisca. She becomes an agent of nation formation; it is through her that Hope learns self-control and composure. Ultimately, I interrogate Magawisca’s position in the nation state and her disappearance at the end of the novel.

In chapter three, “Challenging the Body Politic: William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or the President’s Daughter and Jeffersonian Republicanism” and chapter four, “‘This is my Gun’: Frank J. Webb’s Radical Black Domesticity,” I shift the discussion to African American literature and its use of miscegenation. In Clotel, William Wells Brown creates a fictionalized account of Thomas Jefferson’s African American descendants. Using Jeffersonian myth, Brown invokes the nation’s founding documents and develop mulatto characters that are the physically embodiment of the Jeffersonian paradox. And in chapter four I examine Webb’s use of domesticity and miscegenation as a way to forward a new black middle class that is capable of being free and, more importantly, being citizens.

A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the State University of New York at Buffalo in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: “Practical Love: Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok, Miscegenation and Nation”
  • Chapter 2: “The Body Politic and Cultural Miscegenation in Hope Leslie or, Early Times in the Massachusetts
  • Chapter 3: “Challenging the Body Politic: William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or the President’s Daughter and Jeffersonian Republicanism”
  • Chapter 4: “‘This is my Gun’: Frank J. Webb’s Radical Black Domesticity”
  • Conclusion
  • End Notes
  • Sources

Purchase the dissertation here.

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A Transnational Temperance Discourse? William Wells Brown, Creole Civilization, and Temperate Manners

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Slavery, United States on 2011-05-14 03:03Z by Steven

A Transnational Temperance Discourse? William Wells Brown, Creole Civilization, and Temperate Manners

The Journal of Transnational American Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1 (2011)
Article 16
27 pages

Carole Lynn Stewart, Assistant Professor of English
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In the nineteenth century, temperance movements provided the occasion for a transnational discourse. These conversations possessed an intensity throughout Britain and the United States. In America temperance often became associated with strongly nationalistic Euro-American forms of identity and internal purity. Nonetheless, African American reformers and abolitionists bound themselves to temperance ideals in forming civil societies that would heal persons and provide communal modes of democratic freedom in the aftermath and recovery from chattel slavery. This paper explores the possibilities of temperance as a transnational discourse by considering its meaning in the life and work of the African American author and activist, William Wells Brown. Brown expressed a “creole civilization” that employed the stylistics of the trickster as a unique mode of restraint that revealed a peculiar power of passivity that was able to claim efficacy over one’s life and community. This meaning of temperance diverges from and dovetails with certain European meanings of civilization that were being forged in the nineteenth century. Brown was in conversation with temperance reformers in America, Britain, and Europe. He imagined the possible meaning of temperance in African, Egyptian, Christian, and Islamic civilizations. He speculated upon the possibility of temperance as a defining characteristic of a transnational civilization and culture that would provide spaces for the expression of democratic freedom. Brown reimagined temperance as a form of corporeal restraint that offered a direct and sacred relation to the land, space, people that appeared in between an ethnic nationalist ethos and the European imperialistic civilization.

And when the victory shall be complete—when there shall be neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth—how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birthplace and the cradle of both those revolutionaries, that shall have ended in that victory.

Abraham Lincoln, “An Address Delivered before the Springfield Washingtonian Temperance Society”

In the mid‐nineteenth century, temperance movements throughout Britain and the United States strove for universalist and international goals of individual sovereignty, restraint, and enlightened freedom. As with many international movements of civil societies emerging from the formation of modern states, they expressed themselves in strongly nationalistic forms of identity. American temperance movements often assumed many of the middle‐class, domestic, and individualistic values associated with the Protestant work ethic and its inner‐worldly asceticism. Temperance in general became prominent in the United States in the period that corresponded with the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, though examples of temperance organizations predate this surge of social movements in the revivalistic atmosphere. American temperance movements were simultaneously concerned with defining the purity of self and establishing a coherent national identity. The notion and practice of temperance has also been a salient orientation of many religions; however, in the colonial period, not even the New England Puritans were temperance activists. On the one hand, the birth of American temperance seemed to initially appear as a result of the nationalist revolutionary ethos, expressing the desire for widespread civil societies: “temperate” behavior suggested a type of rational, restrained, and public character. On the other hand, temperance movements acquired an evangelical character in the context of the affected and enthusiastic social spaces of “awakening.”

The opening epigraph from Abraham Lincoln captures the contiguity between concepts of slavery and intemperance, as well as the exceptionalist ethos prominent in the United States and brought to bear on issues of individual freedom of the “land.” Indeed, many temperance groups were nativist and virulently racist even when temperance was linked to antislavery. Notably, beyond popular goals of moderation, total abstinence, and prohibition, temperance also expressed different promises and civil ideals for many African American abolitionists who conjoined temperance and antislavery. For the former enslaved, temperance seemed to promote and encompass national values like the Protestant work ethic, self‐reliance, and individual restraint, particularly for the poor and those who were striving for social elevation by inculcating the values of the middle class…

…The word “civilization” does not grow out of American democracy and its revolutionary founding, but rather from modern European imperialism and its emerging structures of civil society. The word is particularly Eurocentric and was not in frequent use until the eighteenth century, first in France and then in England. Historian of religions Charles H. Long observed in his paper “Primitive/Civilized: The Locus of a Problem” that “the meaning of this term cannot be understood apart from the geographies and cultures of the New World that are both ‘other’ and empirical.” While an empirical other—recognized negatively as an enslaved person—Brown consistently wrote of such figures as the “tragic mulatta” and the predicament of one‐drop racism in the United States, with positive views of the eventual “amalgamation” of the “races.” Moreover, discussions of Brown’s work commonly allude to the self‐consciously constructed aspects of his identity—from the lack of a fixed identity, his biracial, nearly outwardly “white” identity that made it possible to almost pass, to Brown’s multiple roles in actual life and his writing. These roles begin with his name William as a child on the plantation being changed to Sandford because another white child had the same name, and his eventual renaming as William Wells Brown. The name was “bestowed upon” him from the Quaker, Wells Brown, who helped him escape. From that fluid and uncertain position, he assumed various vocational and activist roles as a steamboat operator, a barber, a banker, a husband and father, a gentleman among the ladies, a radical abolitionist and republican revolutionary, an anglophile, a temperance activist, a consummate man of letters, a historian, a playwright, a novelist, and, in the 1870s, a medical doctor of uncertain qualifications.

This intermixture of roles and identities also disrupted the familiar binary of primitive/civilized. Brown conceived of the inherently Eurocentric concept of civilization in creolized ways—living an intermixture that opposed the opposition of terms. Indeed, rather than necessarily leading to the situation of the empirical other, what some have understood as Brown’s liminal “trickster” identity could be viewed as a restrained orientation characterizing a basic revolutionary structure out of which Brown saw a modern civilization emerging. This notion of civilization not only came to fruition through Brown’s European travels (1849–1854) and direct reflections on the harbingers of “civilization,” but through his postbellum reflections on African civilizations and his pilgrimage for “home” to establish a dignified relation to the land in My Southern Home (1880). In Brown’s travels, temperance remained the locus for a new, creolized civilization, expressing a manner and style of behavior that resembles a sociogenetic and psychogenetic meaning of restraint forged in light of the history of transatlantic slavery and an imagined revolutionary founding, as well as countering the excesses inherent in modern “civilized” exchanged…

Read the entire article here.

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Minstrel passing: Citizenship, race change, and motherhood in 1850s America

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2011-03-25 04:02Z by Steven

Minstrel passing: Citizenship, race change, and motherhood in 1850s America

Saint Louis University
116 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3383188
ISBN: 9781109452945

Roshaunda D. Cade, Writing Coordinator, Academic Resource Center
Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Saint Louis University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the egree of Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation explores how mixed race slave mothers in American literature of the mid-Nineteenth Century combine the performances of blackface minstrelsy and racial passing in order to perform minstrel passing and access the freedoms of citizenship. Minstrel passing seeks to gain the advantages of the other through performances of deception, and it gains more liberties for the performer than either passing or minstrelsy do alone. While minstrel passing does not grant freedom, it grants the freedom to behave like and be treated as a citizen. During this era, motherhood defined female citizenship. But instead of solely resigning women to the domestic sphere, motherhood emboldens women to try things they have never done before. For these slave women, motherhood pushes them to seek the benefits of citizenship.

I argue that in the following the texts, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Harriet Beecher Stowe; Clotel (1853), William Wells Brown; The Bondwoman’s Narrative (2002), Hannah Crafts; Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), Mark Twain, these bids for citizenship happen largely through the acts of blackface minstrelsy, racial passing, and minstrel passing. Because these performances privilege self-definition, they become tools in the feminist arsenal of autonomy and create space for feminist citizenship. Each of these novels deals with mixed race slave mothers minstrel passing their way into freedom. Additionally, the complexity of the minstrel passing situations intensifies in each novel, revealing the complicated nature of the mid-Nineteenth Century moment.

The mid-century collision of increasingly confusing racial definitions, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, the emergence of blackface minstrelsy as a national form of entertainment, and the Women’s Rights Movement created a unique atmosphere for American women, black and white. To that end, the 1850s offered a variety of ways for women to accommodate citizenship. I maintain that this era created a space for mixed race slave mothers to perform racial deception, in order to exercise autonomy and define their own spheres, and find the freedom to enjoy the privileges of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness inherent in U.S. citizenship.


    • Introduction
    • Stowe’s Search for Mother
    • Accidental Feminism
    • Citizenship
    • Eliza, George, and Harry: Minstrel Trio
    • Conclusion
    • Introduction
    • Growing up with Currer
    • Althesa’s Attempts at American Liberty
    • Clotel’s Migration from Black Female Slave to Free White Man
    • Conclusion
    • Introduction
    • Searching for Mother
    • White Womanhood
    • Othermothering
    • Little Orphan Hannah
    • Conclusion; or, White Womanhood Revisited
    • Introduction
    • Mark Twain and Motherhood
    • Privilege, Citizenship, and Race
    • Roxy as Racial Passer
    • Roxy as Blackface Minstrel
    • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Vita Auctoris

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Race marks: Miscegenation in nineteenth-century American fiction

Posted in Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Slavery, United States on 2010-03-24 01:58Z by Steven

Race marks: Miscegenation in nineteenth-century American fiction

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
195 pages

Kimberly Anne Hicks

This dissertation examines the process of miscegenation in the work of four authors who occupy pivotal positions in American writing about race. It is concerned with a variety of fictional and non-fictional texts produced by William Wells Brown, George Washington Cable, Pauline Hopkins, and Thomas Dixon between the years 1846 and 1915. This study will examine how miscegenation provided these authors with a way of narrativizing American race relations in a period which encompasses slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction and Redemption, as well as the creation of a segregated South and an imperial America.

Individual chapters engage in cultural as well as literary analyses by reading mixed-race characters as literary signs which gave rise to a wide range of narrative possibilities, as political instruments which allowed each author to intervene in contemporary debates about the construction of American history, the nature of race, and laws designed to regulate interracial contact. While remaining aware of the personal and political differences which separate the writers under consideration, this study notes similarities in the ways in which each makes use of mixed-race characters and miscegenation plots.

Attention to gender likewise unites the individual chapters. The fact of mixed parentage signifies differently for male and female characters, no matter what plot these authors chose. For each, the figure of the quadroon woman presented special problems, as indicated by the sheer number of pages each devoted to telling child re-telling her story. This study traces the permutations of plots centered around quadroon women by reading a number of fictional works by each of the primary authors. It also examines the ways in which constructions of gender are overdetermined by methods of race representation which appear in the works of African-American writers, as well as in that of their white counterparts.

By focusing on a works which illustrate the interconnectedness between black and white Americans from slavery through segregation–works created by authors who themselves represent, in their persons as well as their politics, a variety of subject positions–this dissertation seeks to locate itself in the context of current efforts to produce a new canon of American literature, one more truly reflective of the varied nature of American life. It examines a literature not of race, but of race relations; one which repeatedly describes positions on a racial continuum too complicated to be characterized in terms of black and white.

Read or purchase the dissertation here.

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Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-12-26 01:18Z by Steven

Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative

Indiana University Press
272 pages
30 b&w photos, 6.125 x 9.25
ISBN-13: 978-0-253-34944-6
ISBN: 0-253-34944-3

Michael A. Chaney, Associate Professor of English
Dartmouth College

Analyzing the impact of black abolitionist iconography on early black literature and the formation of black identity, Fugitive Vision examines the writings of Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, William and Ellen Craft, Harriet Jacobs, and the slave potter David Drake. Juxtaposing pictorial and literary representations, the book argues that the visual offered an alternative to literacy for current and former slaves, whose works mobilize forms of illustration that subvert dominant representations of slavery by both apologists and abolitionists. From a portrait of Douglass’s mother as Ramses to the incised snatches of proverb and prophesy on Dave the Potter‘s ceramics, the book identifies a “fugitive vision” that reforms our notions of antebellum black identity, literature, and cultural production.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Looking Beyond and Through the Fugitive Icon
  • Part 1. Fugitive Gender: Black Mothers, White Faces, Sanguine Sons
    1. Racing and Erasing the Slave Mother: Frederick Douglass, Parodic Looks, and Ethnographic Illustration
    2. Looking for Slavery at the Crystal Palace: William Wells Brown and the Politics of Exhibition(ism)
    3. The Uses in Seeing: Mobilizing the Portrait in Drag in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
  • Part 2. Still Moving: Revamped Technologies of Surveillance
    1. Panoramic Bodies: From Banvard‘s Mississippi to Brown’s Iron Collar
    2. The Mulatta in the Camera: Harriet Jacobs’s Historicist Gazing and Dion Boucicault‘s Mulatta Obscura
    3. Throwing Identity in the Poetry-Pottery of Dave the Potter
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Fiction

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-11-03 19:27Z by Steven

The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Fiction

Rutgers University Press
202 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-3481-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-3482-4

Eve Allegra Raimon, Professor, Arts & Humanities
University of Southern Maine

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,” Raimon reconsiders 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.

Read an excerpt here.

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