Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony

Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony

by Dwight McBride, Austin Sarat
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0814756042

ISBN-13: 9780814756041

Pub. Date: 02/01/2002

Publisher: New York University Press

Even the most cursory review of black literary production during the nineteenth century indicates that its primary concerns were the issues of slavery, racial subjugation, abolitionist politics and liberation. How did the writers of these narratives "bear witness" to the experiences they describe? At a time when a hegemonic discourse on these subjects already

Overview

Even the most cursory review of black literary production during the nineteenth century indicates that its primary concerns were the issues of slavery, racial subjugation, abolitionist politics and liberation. How did the writers of these narratives "bear witness" to the experiences they describe? At a time when a hegemonic discourse on these subjects already existed, what did it mean to "tell the truth" about slavery?

Impossible Witnesses explores these questions through a study of fiction, poetry, essays, and slave narratives from the abolitionist era. Linking the racialized discourses of slavery and Romanticism, it boldly calls for a reconfiguration of U.S. and British Romanticism that places slavery at its center.

Impossible Witnesses addresses some of the major literary figures and representations of slavery in light of discourses on natural rights and law, offers an account of Foucauldian discourse analysis as it applies to the problem of "bearing witness," and analyzes specific narratives such as "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," and "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano."

A work of great depth and originality, Impossible Witnesses renders traditional interpretations of Romanticism impossible and places Dwight A. McBride at the forefront of studies in race and literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814756041
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
02/01/2002
Pages:
207
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
1Introduction: Bearing Witness: Memory, Theatricality, the Body, and Slave Testimony1
2Abolitionist Discourse: A Transatlantic Context16
Abolitionist Discourse and Romanticism21
Reflections on Abolitionist Discourse in England25
African Humanity and the Possibility of Rage in Edgeworth, Cowper, and Opie42
On Whiteness and Humanity: The Example of Blake's "The Little Black Boy"59
Reflections on Abolitionist Discourse in the U.S.62
Emerson and the Fugitive Slave Law: Toward a Theory of Whiteness67
Troping the Slave: Margaret Fuller's Review of Douglass's Narrative75
The Body as Evidence: Garrison's Defense of David Walker's Appeal78
3"I Know What a Slave Knows": Mary Prince as Witness, or the Rhetorical Uses of Experience85
4Appropriating the Word: Phillis Wheatley, Religious Rhetoric, and the Poetics of Liberation103
5Speaking as "the African": Olaudah Equiano's Moral Argument against Slavery120
6Consider the Audience: Witnessing to the Discursive Reader in Douglass's Narrative151
Afterword173
Notes177
Bibliography191
Index201
About the Author207

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