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Romanticism and Slave Narratives


  • 4 b/w illus. 1 map
  • Page extent: 348 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.51 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521604567 | ISBN-10: 0521604567)

Helen Thomas's study opens a new avenue for Romantic literary studies by exploring connections with literature produced by slaves, slave owners, abolitionists and radical dissenters between 1770 and 1830. In the first major attempt to relate canonical Romantic texts to the writings of the African diaspora, she investigates English literary Romanticism in the context of a transatlantic culture, and African culture in the context of eighteenth-century Britain. In so doing, the book reveals an intertextual dialogue between two diverse yet equally rich cultural spheres, and their corresponding systems of thought, epistemology and expression. Showing how marginalised slaves and alienated radical dissenters contributed to transatlantic debates over civil and religious liberties, Helen Thomas remaps Romantic literature on this broader canvas of cultural exchanges, geographical migrations and identity-transformation, in the years before and after the abolition of the slave trade.

• The first book to relate canonical Romantic texts to a rich selection of writings from the African diaspora; brings Romanticism into contact with transatlantic and Black/African-American studies • Large amount of primary research on slave writings, radical dissenters, abolitionism, and debates on civil and religious liberties, 1770–1830 • Race, slavery and the rise of black writing in Britain are currently very hot topics; this study offers these as a challenging new context for understanding Romanticism


Introduction; 1. The English slave trade and abolitionism; 2. Radical dissent and spiritual autobiography: Joanna Southcott, John Newton and William Cowper; 3. Romanticism and abolitionism: Mary Wollstonecraft, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth; 4. Cross-cultural contact: John Stedman, Thomas Jefferson and the slaves; 5. The diasporic identity: language and the paradigms of liberation; 6. The early slave narratives: Jupiter Hammon, John Marrant and Ottobah Gronniosaw; 7. Phyllis Wheatley: poems and letters; 8. Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative; 9. Robert Wedderburn and mulatto discourse.


'An important work that both illuminates and problematises the relationship between Romanticism and the slave narratives that often were read far more widely than the now canonical work of the Romantic poets.' BARS Bulletin

'Overall, Thomas's study is an impressive and highly useful volume …'. Romanticism

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