Rethinking Uncle Tom

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Generally critics and interpreters of Uncle Tom have constructed a one-way view, albeit offering a few kind words for him along the way. Recovering Uncle Tom requires retelling his story. This book delivers on that task, while accomplishing something no other work on Harriet Beecher Stowe has fully attempted: an in-depth statement of her political thought. Her oeuvre, in partnership with that of her husband, Calvin, constitutes a demonstration of the permanent necessity of moral and prudential judgment in human affairs. It identifies the political conditions that can best guarantee conditions of decency. Her two disciplines-philosophy and poetry-illuminate the founding principles of the American republic and remedy defects in their realization that were evident in the mid-nineteenth century. While slavery is not the only defect, its persistence and expansion indicate the overall defects. 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.
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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

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Book I The Ghostly Cry: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Part I

1 The Question of Equality 5

2 The Real Alternatives 13

3 Standards of Humanity 27

4 Stowe's Own "Introductions" 31

5 A Little Wine and Brandy: The Narrative Begins 49

6 Patriarchy, Matriarchy, and Other Myths of Slavery 59

7 The Birth of Uncle Tom 69

8 The Kinesis of Slavery and the Science of Natures 83

9 "What Country Have I?" 95

10 We Have No City 107

11 The Light of the Present 121

12 Myth Making and the End 147

13 An Unaccountable Prejudice 155

14 Triumph 169

Part II

15 The Genealogy of Uncle Tom 185

16 Calvin's Ideas 201

17 The Central Problem: Slavery 213

18 The General Significance of Uncle Tom's Cabin 237

Book II Non-utopian Optimism: Harriet Stowe's Evangelical Liberalism

Part I The Middle Passage: Sunny Memories

19 An American Campaign Abroad 253

20 A Cause Célèbre 277

21 Seasickness; or, the Way Things Really Look 287

22 The Scotland Campaign: A Beginning and End of Liberal History 293

23 The Practical Politics of the Matter 347

24 The Defense of Melodrama 381

25 Pre-Utopian Reflections 393

Part II Salvation

26 Anutopia 409

27 Coda: Was Harriet Stowe a Racist? 437

28 Postscript 441

Bibliography 443

Index 455

About the Author 463

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