Rethinking Uncle Tom

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Generally critics and interpreters of Uncle Tom have constructed a one-way view of Uncle Tom, albeit offering a few kind words for Uncle Tom along the way. Recovering Uncle Tom requires re-telling his story. This book delivers on that mission, while accomplishing something no other work on Harriet Beecher Stowe has fully attempted: an in-depth statement of her political thought. Heroeuvre, in partnership with that of her husband Calvin, constitutes a demonstration of the permanent necessity of moral and prudential judgment in human affairs. Moreover, it identifies the political conditions that can best guarantee conditions of decency. Her two disciplinesDphilosophy and poetryDilluminate the founding principles of the American republic and remedy defects in their realization that were evident in mid-nineteenth century. While slavery is not the only defect, its persistence and expansion indicate the overall shortcomings. In four of her chief works (Uncle Tom's Cabin,Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands,Dred, and Oldtown Folks), Stowe teaches not only how to eliminate the defect of slavery, but also how to realize and maintain a regime founded on the basis of natural rights and Christianity. Further, she identifies the proper vehicle for educating citizens so they might reliably be ruled by decent public opinion. Book one, part one of Rethinking Uncle Tom explains Uncle Tom's Cabin within the context of the Stowes' joint project, an articulation of the conditions of democratic life and the appropriate nature of modern humanism. Book two, parts one and two, analyses how key elements of Calvin's thinking were conveyed by Stowe's works, while distinguishing her thought from his, and examines the importance of her 'political geography' and the breadth of her thinking on cultural, moral, and political matters. Parts three and four investigate the most mature elements of Stowe's political thought, providing a close reading of Sunny MemoriesDrevealing the full political purpose of that work, discerned through mastery of its complex symbolismDand of Oldtown Folks, which completes the development of Stowe's political thought by assessing three alternative regimes and by presenting a vision of anutopia: the ultimate life of decency and order which is proof against false dreams of rationalized life. Rethinking Uncle Tom provides readers both better familiarity with the moral discourse of abolition and nineteenth-century reformism, and, more importantly, a glimpse of an America envisioned as producing that nobility of soul that Uncle Tom represented, the human model of surpassing excellence.

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Editorial Reviews

Alfred L. Brophy
Uncle Tom's Cabin is an extraordinary work that helped remake our country and infuse considerations of humanity into our national character. Rethinking Uncle Tom is an extraordinary work of scholarship—the culmination of decades of research and thinking by W.B. Allen. It is more than the finest book ever written on that volume. It rediscovers Stowe's sophisticated political theory and gives Stowe her place as one of our country's finest political philosophers, who presented an integrated vision of liberty and equality over slavery. She helped lead our nation to realize the possibilities of a political existence that would bring us as close as humanly possible to perfection.
October 2009 CHOICE
The author offers solid anaylsis of specific moments in Stowe's narrative. His scholarship is impressive: his depth of knowledge and his ability to sift through the text is admirable. One of the book's strengths is its attention to forgotten political arguments and theory of Stowe's day. Allen revives interest in Calvin Stowe, Harriet's husband, and shows how skillfully Harriet gave voice to her husband's philosophical, moral, and scholarly thought. In discussing their mutual support, Allen realigns them as virtually a collaborative team that both generated important political theory and communicated it to a vast readership. . . . Recommended.
Colleen Sheehan
William B. Allen's astute and provocative interpretation ofUncle Tom's Cabin is a tour de force in Stowe scholarship, demonstrating at once Allen's deft handling of political literature and Stowe's profound treatment of America's founding principles through literary politics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739127995
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 484
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

W. B. Allen is emeritus professor of political science at Michigan State University and author of George Washington: America's First Progressive andThe Personal and the Political: Three Fables by Montesquieu. An Introduction to Political Philosophy.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Preface Part 2 Book I. The Ghostly Cry:Uncle Tom's Cabin Part 3 Part I Chapter 4 Chapter 1. The Question of Equality Chapter 5 Chapter 2. The Real Alternatives Chapter 6 Chapter 3. Standards of Humanity Chapter 7 Chapter 4. Stowe's Own Introductions Chapter 8 Chapter 5. A Little Wine and Brandy: The Narrative Begins Chapter 9 Chapter 6. Patriarchy, Matriarchy, and other Myths of Slavery Chapter 10 Chapter 7. The Birth of Uncle Tom Chapter 11 Chapter 8. The Kinesis of Slavery and the Science of Natures Chapter 12 Chapter 9. “What Country Have I?” Chapter 13 Chapter 10. We Have No City Chapter 14 Chapter 11. The Light of the Present Chapter 15 Chapter 12. Myth Making and the End Chapter 16 Chapter 13. An Unaccountable Prejudice Chapter 17 Chapter 14. Triumph Part 18 Part II Chapter 19 Chapter 15. The Genealogy of Uncle Tom Chapter 20 Chapter 16. Calvin’s Ideas Chapter 21 Chapter 17. The Central Problem: Slavery Chapter 22 Chapter 18. The General Significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Part 23 Book II. Non-utopian Optimism: Harriet Stowe’sEvangelical Liberalism Part 24 Part I Chapter 25 Chapter 19. An American Campaign Abroad Chapter 26 Chapter 20. A Cause Célèbre Chapter 27 Chapter 21. Seasickness; or, The Way Things Really Look Chapter 28 Chapter 22. The Scotland Campaign: A Beginning and End of Liberal History Chapter 29 Chapter 23. The Practical Politics of the Matter Chapter 30 Chapter 24. The Defense of Melodrama Chapter 31 Chapter 25. Pre-utopian Reflections Part 32 Part II Chapter 33 Chapter 26. Anutopia Chapter 34 Chapter 27. Coda–Was Harriet Stowe a Racist Chapter 35 Chapter 28. Postscript

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