By Kevin Pelletier
concentrating on a number of very important anti-slavery figures, together with David Walker, Nat Turner, Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism illustrates how antislavery discourse labored to redefine violence and vengeance because the final expression (rather than denial) of affection and sympathy. on the sametime, those warnings of apocalyptic retribution enabled antislavery writers to precise, albeit in a roundabout way, fantasies of brutal violence opposed to slaveholders. What started as a sentimental process quick grew to become an incendiary gesture, with antislavery reformers envisioning the whole annihilation of slaveholders and defenders of slavery.
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Extra info for Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature
In this novel, it is not the threat of God’s wrath that white Southerners need to worry about; it is Dred’s. Like Nat Turner, who assumed the prerogative of God when he decided to exact theologically sanctioned vengeance against white Southerners, Dred is represented in this work of antislavery fiction precisely as the incarnation of God’s apocalyptic retribution. In this way, Dred not only further dramatizes the synecdochic connection between prophecies of apocalypse and slave insurrection, but he constitutes one of the principal sentimental agents of the narrative.
8 This question, posed by David Walker about his Appeal, will no doubt strike modern readers as disingenuous, given what we know about the effects his work had throughout the South. Once the Appeal began circulating, officials arrested anyone who possessed copies of the document. Laws were enacted quarantining Northern black sailors in order to prevent them from disseminating Walker’s polemic or any other literature thought to agitate slaves or endanger the autonomy of the planter class. ” 10 Indeed, the Appeal was the most incendiary attack against slavery in the antebellum period, and it achieved this status by constructing a rhetoric of terror that portended bloody insurrection and linked ideas of slave rebellion with prophecies of God’s apocalyptic retribution.
And just like Stowe, Eastman concludes with words of wrath to underscore and incentivize her ostensible commitment to love. ” 59 Eastman’s deployment of this sentimental trope not only indicates its geographical ubiquity in the antebellum period, it also underscores that apocalyptic sentimentality is not inherently antislavery or proslavery, progressive or conservative. It is a politically neutral configuration that is marshaled in the service of various and at times competing ideological positions.
Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature by Kevin Pelletier