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Abolitionist Geographies

Abolitionist Geographies

Martha Schoolman
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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    Abolitionist Geographies
    Book Description:

    Traditional narratives of the period leading up to the Civil War are invariably framed in geographical terms. The sectional descriptors of the North, South, and West, like the wartime categories of Union, Confederacy, and border states, mean little without reference to a map of the United States. InAbolitionist Geographies, Martha Schoolman contends that antislavery writers consistently refused those standard terms.

    Through the idiom Schoolman names "abolitionist geography," these writers instead expressed their dissenting views about the westward extension of slavery, the intensification of the internal slave trade, and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law by appealing to other anachronistic, partial, or entirely fictional north-south and east-west axes. Abolitionism's West, for instance, rarely reached beyond the Mississippi River, but its East looked to Britain for ideological inspiration, its North habitually traversed the Canadian border, and its South often spanned the geopolitical divide between the United States and the British Caribbean.

    Schoolman traces this geography of dissent through the work of Martin Delany, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Her book explores new relationships between New England transcendentalism and the British West Indies; African-American cosmopolitanism, Britain, and Haiti; sentimental fiction, Ohio, and Liberia; John Brown's Appalachia and circum-Caribbeanmarronage. These connections allow us to see clearly for the first time abolitionist literature's explicit and intentional investment in geography as an idiom of political critique, by turns liberal and radical, practical and utopian.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4212-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: What Is Abolitionist Geography?
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book is an experiment in thinking about the archive of abolitionist spatial practice beyond the familiar stories of sectionalism and Manifest Destiny. Taking as its chronological touchstones British West Indian Emancipation in 1834, the U.S. Compromise of 1850, and John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, this book examines an ensemble of interrelated, mutually influential, and ideologically aligned literary texts in order to delineate an approach to literary abolitionism that promotes geography as a key discourse of abolitionist political intervention. By elaborating the category of abolitionist geography, here through the example of Martin Delany’s Blake, and then in...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Emerson’s Hemisphere
    (pp. 21-68)

    I begin with these epigraphs by way of an oblique approach to the temporal dislocations and spatial repetitions of abolitionist geography. The first comes from a private letter welcoming Ralph Waldo Emerson to what is described ironically as his native hemisphere following a nine-month European sojourn, a journey that was initially intended to soothe the chronic tuberculosis symptoms that reappeared several times throughout his young adulthood. The letter was written by his brother Edward, who had been living in Puerto Rico almost continuously since 1830 on account of his own tubercular symptoms. The second comes from a lecture delivered in...

  5. CHAPTER 2 August First and the Practice of Disunion
    (pp. 69-98)

    As we saw in the previous chapter, New England abolitionists approached the micropolitical details of the British West Indian Emancipation process across an anxiously erected barrier of objections to what they perceived as new innovations in unfree labor that threatened to ensnare the formerly enslaved and abolitionist alike. However, as the very profusion of debate, reportage, and speculation on the subject should begin to indicate, New England abolitionists’ attitude toward British emancipation cannot simply be reduced to anything so bluntly undialectical as symptomatic avoidance. Indeed, New England abolition’s reliance on the British antislavery movement for funds, for personnel, for intellectual...

  6. CHAPTER 3 William Wells Brown’s Critical Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 99-124)

    The transnational circulation of both bodies and ideas was as we have seen both agivenand aproblemfor radical abolitionism.Thus, as a matter of critical practice, any study of abolitionism that programmatically denigrates the regional for the transnational, or vice versa, can only distort the extent of abolitionists’ own investment in mobilizing those contradictions in ways that were both deeply significant to the imaginative dimension of their political work and substantially improvised as responses to different challenges presented by both traveling and by staying put. In this chapter, I explore these questions as a means of unfixing William...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s Anti-expansionism
    (pp. 125-160)

    Uncle tom’s cabinis famous for taking up space. Not merely a long novel with formidable realist ambitions,Uncle Tom’s Cabinis also well known for exceeding the containers allott ed to it both materially and culturally. Its serialization in theNational Eraran long, its sales in book form were stupendous, its cultural penetration massive. However, the novel’s grandeur has in recent decades come to be characterized in terms closer to grandiosity, and its attention to regional variability and physical movement as an expansionist program. In short, the current critical consensus has att ributed toUncle Tom’s Cabina...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Maroon’s Moment, 1856–1861
    (pp. 161-188)

    Late in his 1859 book TheRoving Editor: Or, Talks With Slaves in the Southern States,the abolitionist radical James Redpath introduces a particular piece of fugitive slave testimony with the observation that “[t]here is a Canada in the Southern States. It is the Great Dismal Swamp.”¹ What Redpath means by this literally is that the Great Dismal Swamp, located on the eastern Virginia–North Carolina border, offered in the post-1850 political landscape a place of relative liberty for fugitive slaves analogous to the legal protection of Canadian free soil. Although both the material pressures on fugitive slaves in the...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 189-190)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 191-224)
  11. Index
    (pp. 225-228)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-229)