Current Issue Article Abstracts
Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 2018
The Radicals' Reconstruction: Jewett at Port Royal
pp. 229 - 231
This essay examines the relationship between actual crows and the Jim Crow figure in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. Building on recent work on race and animal studies, the essay argues that Stowe's racialist assumptions about the innate ability of black people to commune with nature allow her to imagine an end to slavery that is inspired by non-human animals. Stowe draws on the demonstrated intelligence and trickster legend of crows in her depictions of "Jim Crow" characters—rebellious black slaves, whom she explicitly links with various kinds of black birds, and who appear subservient but are more subversive than meets the eye. She also uses a cunning crow that lives on a plantation and wreaks havoc on its inhabitants to unite notions of animality and rebellion and to emphasize the parallels between keeping an undomesticated animal as a pet and a person as a slave. This essay in the end suggests that Stowe's racialism, evolved from Uncle Tom's Cabin, serves as a way for her to endorse smaller forms of slave rebellion instead of the violent revolution the title character Dred desires but does not carry out by the end of the novel.
This paper argues that Ralph Waldo Emerson's and Walt Whitman's manuscript books informed how and what they wrote during the antebellum decades. It begins by establishing that between 1830 and 1860 readymade manuscript books began displacing the loose-leaf assemblages that were more common around and long before 1800. The readymade manuscript book consequently facilitated renewed abstractions of the labors of reading and writing, as well as their remove from the resistances and complications of writing materials that trace back to earlier shifts in the history of literacy. From these shifts in antebellum material culture came Emerson's efforts to transcend mere readymades and Whitman's embrace of the readymade as the medium of transcendence.
Signs in the Heavens and the Distress of Nations
pp. 285 - 306
This essay argues that in the early nineteenth century, the heavens functioned as a non-linguistic medium of communication. Meteor showers, eclipses, and comets seized the attention of viewers across the United States and were subsequently harnessed by community leaders to validate religious and political movements. Using people's responses to different heavenly signs as they were recorded in newspapers, court depositions, almanacs, speeches, and religious tracts, this essay reconstructs the interpellative power of astronomical events—their capacity to seize people's attention—and the conflicts between religious and reform communities over how to interpret them. This conflict provides the context for one of the most unusual claims about heavenly media in the early nineteenth century—Nat Turner's assumption that an astronomical event could coordinate a revolt among geographically dispersed viewers.
This article analyzes how early American theories of the child self arose in conjunction with emerging writings about juvenile delinquency. I read the day-to-day records of the New York House of Refuge, the first U.S. prison specifically designed for children, alongside popular domestic manuals ranging from John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education to Lydia Marie Child's The Mother's Book. These dual archives converge to generate visions of a childhood physically estranged from the adults around them and thus outside of socialization or discipline. Targeting poor and immigrant children, in particular, the perceived opacity of so-called "incorrigible" children reproduces juvenile subjectivity as a suspect entity, which is unknowable and therefore always potentially deviant from the broader social body.
"Pressing for Sequoyah" argues print became a dominant medium used by Native nations, communities, and individuals in the 1890s through the early 1900s to resist greater U.S. intervention in Indian Territory (present-day eastern Oklahoma). This essay looks at spatial and governmental practices manifested through the production and circulation of print in a moment of sweeping change for Indian Territory: the years between the Curtis Act (1898)—which began the allotment process for the Five Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Mvskoke-Creek, and Seminole)—and the State of Sequoyah movement (1905). This moment was not simply archived in the newspapers, magazines, and other ephemera of the era, but their content, composition, and circulation worked in concert with grassroots organizing. With the end of formal treating practices between the U.S. and Native people in the 1870s, the printed page, like the state of Sequoyah, became an alternative, at times anti-assimilative, tactic in the continued effort to challenge imperial control. The Sequoyah movement functioned as the last large-scale intratribal effort to curtail the transformation of the Oklahoma and Indian territories into a white-dominated, U.S-controlled space, i.e. a U.S. state. Through its name and organization efforts, Sequoyah asserted a textual and aesthetic imagining of Indigenous interference in colonial geopolitics.
This essay argues that George Lippard's bold experimentation with novelistic form followed directly from his preoccupation with the concept of urban complicity, or the witting and unwitting ways city residents contributed to social harms and sustained "a corrupt social system." This essay argues further that Lippard's sociological and literary aesthetic innovation was inseparable from his religious commitments. Lippard's 1845 blockbuster The Quaker City is among the first U.S. novels to give sustained analytical attention to urban complicity, and the connection it unfolds between complicity study and the expressive limits of different kinds of story forms suggests that for Lippard, new kinds of complicity occasioned by the growth of American cities demanded new kinds of sociomoral investigation. The Quaker City concentrates on two modern forms of urban complicity, structural complicity and network complicity, and devotes markedly contrasting story forms to the investigation of each. Each kind of complicity imposes crucial aesthetic constraints on its own narrativization, and these constraints are overcome, the novel suggests, only when these two narrative forms, one presenting structural complicity's spatial fixity and one presenting network complicity's temporal flow, are subsumed within a totalizing vision of Christian eschatology.
Theater; or, Looking beyond Plays and Places
pp. 411 - 418
pp. 427 - 429