Characterizing Slavery in the Long Eighteenth Century

Couchman, Dorothy, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wall, Cynthia, University of Virginia
Hunter, J.Paul, Department of English, University of Virginia
Pasanek, Brad, Department of English, University of Virginia

“Characterizing Slavery in the Long Eighteenth Century” focuses on the artificial characters that people eighteenth-century Anglophone fictions of enslavement—from master/slave romances set amongst fantasies of imperial exploration, to a blockbuster comic opera about enslaved resistance, to the abolitionist verse that first queered Caribbean sugar as flesh, blood, and feces. I show that eighteenth-century black characters are rarely individuals: instead, such figures collect enslaved bodies and categorize them as Domingos, Mungos, and Quashis. Together, the period’s fictitious slaves highlight how selfhood and personhood became explicitly racialized and status delimited in an age when Britain and the United States dominated the slave trade in the North Atlantic; more broadly, such fictions offer a new approach to historians of race, colonialism, and slavery, and insist that literary scholars must come to terms with chattel slavery if we are to understand Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment literary character.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
literature, character, slavery, race, Atlantic slavery, eighteenth-century
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: