Slavery and the Romantic Imagination

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University of Pennsylvania Press, Sep 14, 2017 - Literary Criticism - 312 pages
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Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

The Romantic movement had profound social implications for nineteenth-century British culture. Among the most significant, Debbie Lee contends, was the change it wrought to insular Britons' ability to distance themselves from the brutalities of chattel slavery. In the broadest sense, she asks what the relationship is between the artist and the most hideous crimes of his or her era. In dealing with the Romantic period, this question becomes more specific: what is the relationship between the nation's greatest writers and the epic violence of slavery? In answer, Slavery and the Romantic Imagination provides a fully historicized and theorized account of the intimate relationship between slavery, African exploration, "the Romantic imagination," and the literary works produced by this conjunction.

Though the topics of race, slavery, exploration, and empire have come to shape literary criticism and cultural studies over the past two decades, slavery has, surprisingly, not been widely examined in the most iconic literary texts of nineteenth-century Britain, even though emancipation efforts coincide almost exactly with the Romantic movement. This study opens up new perspectives on Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Keats, and Mary Prince by setting their works in the context of political writings, antislavery literature, medicinal tracts, travel writings, cartography, ethnographic treatises, parliamentary records, philosophical papers, and iconography.


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British Slavery and African Exploration The Written Legacy
The Distanced Imagination
Hazards and Horrors in the Slave Colonies
Distant Diseases Yellow Fever in Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Intimacy as Imitation Monkeys in Blakes Engravings for Stedmans Narrative
Fascination and Fear in Africa
African Embraces Voodoo and Possession in Keatss Lamia
Mapping Interiors African Cartography Nile Poetry and Percy Bysshe Shelleys The Witch of Atlas
Proximitys Monsters Ethnography and AntiSlavery Law in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein
Intimate Distance African Women and Infant Death in Wordsworths Poetry and The History of Mary Prince
Selected Bibliography

Facing Slavery in Britain

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Page 24 - The winds roared, and the rains fell. The poor white man, faint and weary, came and sat under our tree. He has no mother to bring him milk; no wife to grind his corn.

About the author (2017)

Debbie Lee teaches English at Washington State University. She is general editor (with Peter Kitson) of the eight-volume work Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period.

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