Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimonyby Dwight McBride, Austin Sarat
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 existed… See more details below
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.
Author Biography: Dwight A. McBride is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is editor of James Baldwin Now, also available from NYU Press.
- New York University Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)
Table of Contents
|1||Introduction: Bearing Witness: Memory, Theatricality, the Body, and Slave Testimony||1|
|2||Abolitionist Discourse: A Transatlantic Context||16|
|Abolitionist Discourse and Romanticism||21|
|Reflections on Abolitionist Discourse in England||25|
|African Humanity and the Possibility of Rage in Edgeworth, Cowper, and Opie||42|
|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 Whiteness||67|
|Troping the Slave: Margaret Fuller's Review of Douglass's Narrative||75|
|The Body as Evidence: Garrison's Defense of David Walker's Appeal||78|
|3||"I Know What a Slave Knows": Mary Prince as Witness, or the Rhetorical Uses of Experience||85|
|4||Appropriating the Word: Phillis Wheatley, Religious Rhetoric, and the Poetics of Liberation||103|
|5||Speaking as "the African": Olaudah Equiano's Moral Argument against Slavery||120|
|6||Consider the Audience: Witnessing to the Discursive Reader in Douglass's Narrative||151|
|About the Author||207|
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