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Race, Romance, and Rebellion

Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century

Colleen C. O’Brien
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Race, Romance, and Rebellion
    Book Description:

    As in many literatures of the New World grappling with issues of slavery and freedom, stories of racial insurrection frequently coincided with stories of cross-racial romance in nineteenth-century U.S. print culture. Colleen O'Brien explores how authors such as Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Livermore, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda imagined the expansion of race and gender-based rights as a hemispheric affair, drawing together the United States with Africa, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. Placing less familiar women writers in conversation with their more famous contemporaries-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Maria Child-O'Brien traces the transnational progress of freedom through the antebellum cultural fascination with cross-racial relationships and insurrections. Her book mines a variety of sources-fiction, political rhetoric, popular journalism, race science, and biblical treatises-to reveal a common concern: a future in which romance and rebellion engender radical social and political transformation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3490-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Introduction: To Foment Freedom
    (pp. 1-10)

    Even in one of the best-known romances of the American Revolution—Abigail and John Adams’s marriage—we find the threat of rebellion. As Abigail reminds her husband, the potential to “foment a Rebelion” is a universal human right, not just an exceptional project that he and his cohorts undertook to break ties with King George. Therefore, as Adams and the other leaders of those North American colonies struggled to exercise a new concept of freedom, they experienced a concomitant anxiety about the limits they would place on that freedom. Although John’s jocular response to Abigail’s entreaty to “Remember the Ladies”...

  6. 1 “What Mischief Would Follow?”: Racial Boundaries, Antireformers, and White Space
    (pp. 11-27)

    In a letter dated October 17, 1849, Wendell Phillips thanked Ralph Waldo Emerson for the use of a set of volumes that he described as a “valuable contribution to the scanty stores of Haytian history.”¹ Phillips’s apparent claim that “Haytian history” existed only in “scanty stores” is interesting, not only because African American newspapers had been publishing stories about Haiti throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, but also because Phillips himself would consequently discover and contribute to a broad Haitian archive, lecturing on the heroics of Toussaint Louverture by the beginning of the Civil War.² For many reformers,...

  7. 2 Colored Carpenters and White Gentlemen: Harriet Jacobs’s Pedagogy of Citizenship
    (pp. 28-55)

    Harriet Jacobs’s narrative is a fascinating example of the coincidence of cross-racial relationships and incidents of rebellion.Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girlcontests the manifestations of cross-racial sexual violence that contaminate all unions, personal and national. In fact, cross-racial sexual violence in the United States served to demarcate the boundaries of the nation as white space, the cause for Jacobs’s protest. This white space emerged not only because Anglo-American men had exclusive claims to property (both real and chattel) in the nation, but also because the mandate that slavery followed the condition of the mother served two...

  8. 3 Desire, Conquest, and Insurrection in Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Sab
    (pp. 56-81)

    The eponymous hero of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga’s 1841 novelSabis a former slave with the potential to level social hierarchies in racially striated Cuba and, supposedly, “avenge” the conquest and genocide of Cuba’s First Nations. His musings about equality, however, are inspired by his love for his former master’s daughter. Couched in the language of the soul, Sab’s definition of equality has much to do with his desire for Carlota, the master’s daughter. Avellaneda’s writing, which also includes autobiography and poetry, is heavily influenced by romantic ideals of the ever-expanding soul and has much in common...

  9. 4 Republicanism and Soul Philosophy in Elizabeth Livermore’s Zoë
    (pp. 82-109)

    In the mid-1850s, the wife of a prominent pacifist Unitarian minister moved into Harriet Beecher Stowe’s old haunts in Cincinnati, Ohio. This preacher’s wife also had authorial aspirations and antislavery inclinations, but rather than write a novel about a nation that had been morally polluted by slavery, she wrote a novel that is not really about any particular nation, or even the idea of nation. Instead, she invented a multiracial West Indian heroine who attends boarding school in Denmark, then departs on a circum-Atlantic journey. In the course of this journey, the quadroon heroine visits England and the West Indies...

  10. 5 Reconstruction Optimism in Julia Collins’s The Curse of Caste
    (pp. 110-131)

    The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Brideseems like an ominous title, even for a story that begins with a tragic cross-racial affair that took place in the antebellum period and concludes with a happy postwar family reunion. This novel’s author, Julia C. Collins, began contributing essays and a serialized novel to the African Methodist Episcopal Church newspaper, theChristian Recorder, after the Civil War.¹ Collins lived in Willamsport, Pennsylvania, and sometimes sent correspondence to theRecorderfrom Oswego, New York. She also worked as a schoolteacher, was married, and died of tuberculosis in the autumn of 1865. The...

  11. 6 The End of Romance in Frances Watkins Harper’s Minnie’s Sacrifice
    (pp. 132-156)

    Shortly after Julia Collins passed away, her Reconstruction optimism—the hope that the end of slavery would signal a new era of citizenship and radical equality—died away too. Readers might imagine that her heroine, Claire Neville—the offspring of a union between a Louisiana Creole and a blue-blooded Yankee—could symbolize an amalgamated and reunified nation, one that could incorporate the vast geography and attendant cultural differences of the ever-expanding United States in its definition of citizenship. That Claire brings a particularly feminine form of virtue and influence to the fractured family she reunites suggests, too, that women might...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-162)

    After the Civil War, Lydia Maria Child attempted to convert the genre of tragedy—the tragic mulatta story that she helped shape in her short story “The Quadroons”—into a historical romance that resolved the problems of slavery. But as Frances Harper’sMinnie’s Sacrificeclearly articulates, the romantic ideals of racial and gender equality that inspired Julia Collins’s Reconstruction optimism or Elizabeth Livermore’s millennial Christian republicanism had little currency in a decade when the Ku Klux Klan formed, former abolitionists and suffragists went at one another’s throats, and the nation reeled from the violence and destruction of a catastrophic war....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 163-178)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-194)
  15. Index
    (pp. 195-200)