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Circulations: Romanticism and the Black Atlantic

"Introduction: Black Romanticism: Romantic Circulations"

Paul Youngquist & Frances Botkin
University of Colorado, Boulder & Towson University


1.        With notable exceptions, studies in British Romanticism remain pretty white. [1]  It’s not simply that most Romanticists, ourselves included, are middle class white folks working for institutions that traditionally privilege peoples and cultures of European descent. Nor is it simply that British culture, at least in its Romantic avatar, presumes whiteness as the (transparent) racial bias of production. The whiteness of Romantic studies is a symptom of amnesia. It bespeaks a massive act of forgetting on the part of contemporary scholarship, an institutional disavowal of the economic conditions that help make cultural production during the Romantic Era possible: the maritime economy of the Atlantic. Anthologies tell the story of this amnesia. Few acknowledge the huge role the West Indies played as the economic engine that drove the astonishing flowering of culture we call Romanticism. While uncontroversial today, Ann Mellor and Richard Matlak’s British Literature 1780-1830 was hailed as an important revisionist compilation when it appeared in 1995. Its inside covers contain a timeline that documents the decisive events of the Romantic period, both in England and as far abroad as India. The absence of any reference to the West Indies, however, leaves the impression (if indeed an absence can impress) that nothing of historical significance occurred there—no Jack Mansong, no Maroon War, no British invasion of St. Domingo, no successful slave rebellion there founding the first black republic in the history of the world. [2]  Such is the amnesia of Romanticism, the unremembered histories of diasporic Africans and creole cultures in the West Indies.

2.        We want to conjure those histories, to summon the ancestor spirits who are wandering the West Indies. The process requires an incantation and ours is “Black Romanticism.” Replacing the honorific “British” with “Black” allows us to dislocate Romantic studies—literally. We move the ruling perspective of critical inquiry from the Island (England) to the islands (West Indies). This is not, however, a movement from metropole to periphery. The West Indies are not the edge of Empire. They are its engine: the economic, material, and cultural condition of British prosperity and dominion during the Romantic era. To chant “Black Romanticism” as means of conjuring this ancestry is to honor the Atlantic as its presiding genius: the Atlantic, watery vortex of myriad economic and cultural exchanges, roaring multiplicity of agencies, vast whirlpool of creative powers.

3.        Why honor the Atlantic? Why conjure its restless revenants? Partly because they haunt Britain as a territorial and national entity. They are ancestors of the nation. To the extent that Romanticism is British, the nation sets the terms conceptually for its study. The consolidation of the nation as a state formation—through more blood and mayhem than many scholars want to admit—was complete by the end of the era deemed “Romantic.” It seems inevitable to approach culture by way of national origins. Consider three powerful accounts of the emergence of British Romantic culture from the consolidation of national identity. In the important book entitled Britons: Forging the Nation, 1701-1837 (1992), Linda Colley describes the difficult cultural trick of fusing England, Scotland, and Wales into a single nation, the United Kingdom. National unity became possible through three powerful, shared experiences: Protestantism, commerce, and near perpetual war (against the Dutch, the Spanish, and the French). The United Kingdom as a nation arises as a solidarity of belief, exchange, and struggle literally grounded in the insular territory of the British Isles (Ireland constituting its reviled other).

4.        This geographic territoriality of Britain receives endless endorsement from a sustaining fantasy of community. A complementary account of the emergence of national culture occurs in Benedict Anderson’s influential Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1994; rev. 2006). In the now familiar argument, Anderson views the nation as “an imagined political community—imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (6). Members of such a community may never meet each other, but they live their communion imaginatively. Three conditions produce this imagined solidarity: capitalism, print, and a language of power. Nations emerge where print advances trade in geographies administrated by such a language: the British Isles, for instance, or the Spanish new world. That makes the nation the solidarity of a linguistically configured imagination. No wonder that culture, particularly literary culture, becomes nationally configured. It’s the brainchild of a language of power that configures the nation.

5.        Finally, an important corrective occurs in the work of Srivinas Aravamudan. His Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (1999) insists that any account of the nation must consider the role of colonies in its emergence, or more specifically the decisive relationship between the imperial and colonial subject. In his view the “tropicopolitan” names the colonized subject as both an imperial fiction and a colonial fact, “object of representation and agent of resistance” (4). Against Colley, Aravamudan argues for the decisive role “xenophobia, Orientalism, colonialism, and racism” (10) play in the production of national identity. The nation is not exclusively a solidarity of domination. The colonial subject can flip the script, appropriating its language of power for unimagined ends. The tropicopolitan thus invents a counter-literacy to disrupt that language, imagining a new solidarity, creating its own nation. As the creation of a linguistically configured imagination, the nation proves its own undoing, promoting in a neat Hegelian way new national possibilities in the tropical space of colonial domination.

6.        All three of these potent accounts of the nation share assumptions that get built into the study of national cultures such as British Romanticism. They are geographically territorialized: Colley’s United Kindom, Anderson’s imagined community, and Aravamuda’s Empire are all grounded physically in territories with borders and colonial satellites. They are linguistically territorialized too: in each instance a language of power (the King’s English, printed discourse, imperial literacy) sustains national boundaries and legitimates cultural production. Finally, they are racially territorialized, albeit less obviously. Colley’s Britons may be ethnically diverse, but they are racially homogenous, congealing into the plump white body of beef-eating John Bull. Anderson’s imagined communities are only as racially diverse as a Eurpoean language of power will admit, which is to say not at all, judging from the written record of the Spanish conquest. While Aravamudan at least acknowledges the racial difference of the tropicopolitan, his emphasis on imperial literacy as the preferred means of resistance makes whiteness the cultural standard against which the colonial subject must react. Casting the other in this role of reaction devalues agencies (outside literacy, for instance) incommensurable with whiteness. The tropicopolitan occupies the queasy position of affirming whiteness to assert racial difference. The brutal history of decolonization illustrates the difficulty here. Where nation sets the terms for agency—whether of resistance or criticism—territory, literacy, and whiteness determine the means and ends of cultural production.

7.        Black Romanticism subverts those imperatives by conjuring spirits they ignore, specters of the Atlantic vortex that haunt the nation and its presumed unities. Cultural critics and radical historians of the last decade have forged new methods of calling them up and querying their wisdom.  [3]  Paul Gilroy’s groundbreaking (in the literal sense of shattering territory as the foundation of cultural criticism) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993) dislocates the space of cultural criticism. Gilroy replaces the nation as stable ground of cultural production with the dynamic swirl of the Atlantic. Mobility becomes the new condition of agency. No longer rooted but routed, identities turn fluid. Cultures split, cross, and recombine. Nationality falls to hybridity as economic and cultural exchanges produce new forms of cultural production that mix high and low, literate and illiterate, white, black, and every shade of brown. Gilroy’s work recovers the cultural multiplicity that unitary notions of nation, language, and race forget. It remembers too the terror built into the nation as imagined community. The displaced blacks of the Black Atlantic lived the full horrifying force of cultural investments in commerce, print, and language. The Enlightenment looks different from the perspective of the living death sentence of slavery. As Gilroy insists (to the great promise of studies in Romanticism), slaves and other displaced people respond by creating counter-cultures that disrupt and transform the nation and its unities. The true cultural vanguard of the Romantic era belongs not to bourgeois word-worthies speaking as Man to men but to those displaced people forging new ways of life under circumstances of enlightened barbarity from blood, sweat, and vision.

8.         Black Romanticism summons the spirits of those visionaries. In this it follows the lead of cultural historians who navigate the complex network of exchanges circulating people, ideas, practices, and things throughout the Atlantic. In Cities of the Dead (1996), Joseph Roach traces the circulation of cultural exchanges throughout the “circum-Atlantic” world. Roach’s emphasis on the circle in circulations is key here. There is little inherently progressive about current scholarly preoccupation with trans-national (or trans-Atlantic) literature. Nation grounds a linear exchange, and the stunning lesson learned is that American readers read British books. Roach’s emphasis on the circulation of surrogated cultural practices puts the stress on transformation. Cultures hybridize as they move. The Atlantic transforms identities and practices as it circulates them.

9.        The radical prophets of this position are Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker. Their monumental history of Atlantic radicalism, The Many Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (2001), politicizes what could too easily be taken for a purely cultural phenomenon: the production of new identities, hopes, visions, and communities through myriad economic and cultural exchanges throughout the Atlantic. They start at the bottom of that economy, with the displaced commoners—from Africa, Ireland, England, France, Scandinavia, the Americas, India, the Far East—who dredged the harbors and built the docks and worked the ships to make the Atlantic pay. A “radical diaspora” of expropriated laborers—slaves and servants, peasants and plebs—a “motley crew” came bodily together to drive that economy. They traded words and songs, ideas and dreams as they worked. Their labor forged new cultures and communities. Their common politics was a politics of the commons, for they were driven from their common property to work alien worlds. This displaced, circulating proletariat was culturally mixed and racially heterogeneous. In Linebaugh and Rediker’s words, “It was multitudinous, numerous, and growing. [. . .] It was cooperative and laboring. [. . .] It was motley, both dressed in rags and multi-ethnic in appearance. [. . .] Finally, the proletariat was self-active, creative; it was—and is—alive; it is onamove” (332-33). Atlantic circulations of people, ideas, and things create new possibilities for collective living irreducible to the prim unities of territory and language. This motley crew of slaves, servants, and sailors multiply cultures and imagine communities beyond the territorial limits of the nation.

10.        Black Romanticism summons and celebrates their example. It deterritorializes British national identity and the culture of the Romantic era, reimagining them as the effect of myriad economic and cultural exchanges circulating throughout the Atlantic. Economic workers are cultural workers too. Where there is economic production there is cultural production. Where there are economic exchanges there are cultural exchanges too. Beneath the honorific of the Briton seethes a prolific cultural multiplicity irreducible to the imperatives of territory, trade, and languages. Black Romanticism remembers this forgotten ancestry of British culture, recovering the vital role Africans and other diasporic commoners play in the cultural production called Romanticism. Black Romanticism conjures these ancestors by practicing counter-literacy, reading the works of nation, empire, and colony against themselves to liberate the common cultures they occlude. Black Romanticism does not speak truth to power, but channels truths that power devalues, multiple truths that lived and died with economic and cultural workers throughout the West Indies and the larger Atlantic world.

11.        A word about that word, “black.” It acquires a threefold valence in our usage. First, there is the obvious racial trace: black as in African, black as in slave. But read warily. The “black” in Black Romanticism is not a new and darker purity to counter British whiteness. On the contrary, it bespeaks the multiple and mixed identities that arise through the circulation of people, ideas, and things throughout the Atlantic. This, then, is the second valence of our usage: black as mixed, hybrid, creolized cultural production. We want a Romanticism that is black in the same sense as Gilroy’s Atlantic: “The fractal patterns of cultural and political exchange and transformation that we try and specify [. . .] indicate how both ethnicities and political cultures have been made anew in ways that are significant not simply for the peoples of the Caribbean but for Europe, for Africa” (15)—and for Britain too. “Black” marks those transformations. Then there is the darkest valence of all, black as “occult”—black magic, black market, the black arts. Black Romanticism acquires insurgence here. Counterforce to whiteness, black in our usage summons mute specters that haunt British Romanticism: the slaves driving it, the terror sustaining it, the common cultures challenging and transforming its superiority. Black Romanticism sets those spirits free to feed upon pure dreams of mastery. It gives them voice and communicates their vitality. In this it follows the example of Joan Dyan, whose imposing Haiti, History, and the Gods (1996) portends a new kind of criticism that takes seriously the cultural lives of the unlettered to reveal their indelible influence on and transformation of European culture. Black Romanticism invokes those transformations to advance them. We conjure the ancestors. We practice black arts. How black is Romanticism? As black as we can make it.


12.        When Jean-Jacque Dessalines tore the white band from the French tricolour in 1803, he issued a decree that would resonate in Haiti’s 1805 inaugural constitution. This constitution pronounced all Haitians “black,” including Polish and German mercenaries who remained on the island. Arguably the first ideological deployment of the term “black,” this revolutionary tactic ultimately foundered in practice when Dessalines applied the methods of the French to the whites of the island and ordered the massacre of those who threatened the new nation. In so doing he, as Lindsey Twa has suggested, “sealed for Haiti a lasting reputation as a nightmare republic in the eyes of the greater white world” (2). However, Dessalines’ incongruous legacy as both hero and villain attests to the sheer vitality and uneasy complexity of his proclamation of a “Black Haiti.” He was, in retrospect, both the perpetrator and the victim of the violence that can and did accompany the exchange and transformation of new world culture. Out of this carnage, new cultural, spiritual and socio-economic identities emerged: “great spirits on earth” sojourned to create a “brave new world” with “such people in it.”  [4] 

13.        Such people include in addition to Dessalines, Juan Manzano, Jack Mansong, Mary Prince, and John Gabriel Stedman: an emperor, a poet, a bandit, a slave, and a soldier. Although these five figures emerged from different geopolitical environments in the Caribbean, they share a complex historical and literary trajectory: a circum-Atlantic labyrinth of shifting, intersecting, and metamorphosing narratives. Four of them were, but did not remain, enslaved, and the fifth simultaneously condoned and condemned the institution. Despite occupying literal and figurative margins, each of these persons claimed the spotlight in metropole, hinterland, and colony. Their stories—and variations of their stories—traveled through and around the Black Atlantic during the Romantic era and after.

14.        Writings from within as well as about the Caribbean offer insight into the construction of European texts. The African-Briton binary employed by traditionally white Romanticism does not accommodate the history and reality of the West Indies. The inclusion of voices and stories from Jamaica, Suriname, Haiti, Bermuda, and Cuba, for example, underscore the African legacies so often marginalized in European stories; in so doing it irrevocably alters the narratives of the metropole. It is perhaps little surprise that narratives emerging from the creolized culture of the New World would change the way both African — and European — descended people understand and represent themselves and their others (to themselves and their others). Kathleen M. Balutansky and Marie Agnes Sourieau have identified in these creole cultures “a syncretic process of transverse dynamics that endlessly reworks and transforms the cultural patterns of varied social and historical experiences and identities” (3). In other words, narratives emerging from the Caribbean are both pre-mediated and pre-meditated.

15.        Although recent scholarship has called attention to the many (and legitimate) problems of historical transmission in the Black Atlantic world—especially to narrative and mnemonic gaps—this collection of essays considers how the circulation of radically different adaptations of the “same” stories provides new ways to understand the colonial Caribbean.  [5]  We pay particular attention to the transatlantic exchange and transformation of stories about slavery, colonialism and their aftermaths in efforts to piece together the fragments of an elusive and violent past.


16.        Stories about Jean-Jacque Dessalines, Jack Mansong, Juan Manzano, John Gabriel Stedman, and Mary Prince have over the past two centuries become part of a constellation of stories about slavery and colonialism, following a circuitous route that began in Africa and traveled from Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Suriname, Bermuda, and Antigua to corresponding points in England, America, and the continent. Each narrative has endured transformations that render the “original” story less significant than the ways the stories connected with them have changed, or been changed. Each of these figures has acquired multiple and contradictory reputations in part due to changing audiences and media.

17.        Jean-Jacques Dessalines, for example, has been represented as both despot and deity. Formerly enslaved, Dessalines rose to power with violence and bloodshed, christened himself Emperor of Haiti, and triumphed over an oppressive European rule. Although Dessalines meant for the newly-independent Haiti to function without slavery, he eventually resorted to related despotic measures in what Michel-Rolph Trouillot has termed caporalism agraire, or agrarian militarism. When he ordered the massacre of the remaining French colonists in Haiti after a reign of terror echoing that of revolutionary France, he incited the wrath of his own soldiers who ambushed and executed him. Though Dessalines has sustained a reputation as an autocratic despot, he has also been deemed a heroic founding father of Haiti. In other words, he was both oppressed and oppressor—slave and emperor—in a constantly shifting social order.

18.        Slave rebel “Three-Fingered Jack” Mansong, has been known in England and the Caribbean as both the “Robin Hood of the Tropical Forest” and the “Terror of Jamaica.” Narratives about his life emerged in England, the United States, and Jamaica, offering different interpretations to varying audiences over the course of two centuries. To this day, he remains a shadowy and ambiguous hero-villain in Jamaica. As both an emblem of freedom and a murderous thug with a history inextricably linked to the likewise elusive (and entirely oral) Maroon history, he embodies the contradictions that characterize life under and on the margins of plantation life.

19.        Stories by and about the Afro-Cuban Juan Manzano provide a rich but contradictory narrative landscape. Manzano was, like Dessalines and Jack Mansong, once enslaved, but he achieved his freedom by pen rather than machete. After his escape from slavery, he worked for planter Domingo Del Monte who allegedly helped him raise funds to buy his own freedom. Del Monte gave Manzano’s poems and autobiography to his friend, Robert Madden, who translated Manzano’s work from Spanish, added several appendices, and prefaced the resulting volume with his own poems before sending them out in print. In addition, Manzano—a renowned storyteller—circulated his own stories orally in Cuba and Jamaica. These overlapping and stories and genres create a space to explore different geopolitical systems and approaches to slavery and abolition.

20.        John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Slaves of Suriname (1796) sits precariously within an archive that includes a web of re-printings, editorial mediations, and images—most notably William Blake’s engraved illustrations. The Dutch-Scots Stedman wrote about his life in Suriname and his relationship with its inhabitants, particularly his alliance with his concubine Joanna and their son, Johnny. Like Manzano’s narrative, Stedman’s reaches a much wider audience than he anticipated, however different from him in taste or agenda. Despite the disparities among the texts, reading between and across the narratives offers a prismatic look at life in eighteenth-century Suriname. Stedman’s fascination with Maroons, for example, provides a valuable resource to understand a history that has few written texts in its repertoire. Although Stedman sustained a reputation as an authority on Suriname, he b ecame, arguably, an exotic object of consumption to be enjoyed by audiences in Europe and the Americas.

21.         The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, emerged in 1831, the first account of a Black woman to be published in England. Born into slavery in Bermuda, moved to Antigua, and then taken to London by her master, John Wood, Prince found employment with Thomas Pringle, the secretary to the Anti-Slavery society and the eventual editor of her (transcribed) narrative soon after landing upon English soil. Prince’s highly mediated account has invited critical conversations about the authenticity of her text since it first appeared, including two libel suits that attest to its polemical nature. Prince’s multi-layered narrative captures the trauma and dispossession that characterizes her transatlantic experience, and its history—like hers—offers a unique opportunity to examine the exigencies of life under and after slavery.

22.        In the first essay of this volume, "Jean-Jacques Dessalines: Demon, Demigod, and Everything in Between" Lindsey Twa traces representations of Dessalines in literary and visual texts from Haiti, the United States, and Europe to examine how these representations shape his fascinating legacy. Twa’s essay insightfully proposes that Dessalines’ legacy—like his physical body—was both torn asunder and restored, “rendering his complex legacy piecemeal.” Twa explores his journey from abject slave to revolutionary hero and locates his ultimate status as Iwa (spirit) in Vodou practice as a cultural space that “recognizes and celebrates the contradictory nature of this mercurial figure” (3). She notes that Kreyol (French Creole) folk songs and ritualistic practice focus on the liberty he brings, “through a body that is both powerful and dismembered, heroic and corrupt, living and dead” (16).

23.        In our second essay, "Rewriting the History of Black Resistance: The Haitian Revolution, Jamaican Maroons and the ‘History’ of ‘Three-Fingered Jack’ in English Popular Culture, 1799-1830," Lissette Szwydky examines British adaptations of the history of the notorious rebel. She argues that the popular history of Jack Mansong can be read as part of a larger colonial history that misrepresents black resistance in the Caribbean and the Americas. Particularly concerned with erasure of Maroon history from these adaptations, she shows how they demonstrate that “an instance of collective rebellion could be sensationalized to the point of being rendered politically insignificant.” By stripping Jack of his gang of followers and by changing the identity of his captor from a Maroon to a slave, she suggests, the British stage and print versions deny the actual history of black resistance and independence in Jamaica.

24.        In our third essay, "Translating a Slave’s Life: Richard Robert Madden and the Post-Abolition Trafficking of Juan Manzano’s Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba," Joselyn Almeida examines the translations of Juan Manzano’s Poems, a manuscript that followed a labyrinthine route before its eventual publication. Almeida suggests that the translation provided British abolitionists with the cultural capital necessary to “ensure a future beyond 1840 given the realignment of geopolitical and economic power in the Atlantic” (11). Madden’s translation functions, she argues, “as a sign of appropriated cultural labor, and performs an ideological accommodation of slavery within the free market/free labor system” (3).

25.        In the fourth essay, "Going Viral: Stedman's Narrative, Textual Variation, and Life in Atlantic Studies," Dustin Kennedy argues that the Stedman archive functions as a new “interpretive unit of cultural-community formation” that “re-directs attention to revolt and insurrection as divergent (and raced) social/political factors in the eighteenth-century.” Identifying Stedman as one of many authorial voices that are disseminated through the archive of the Narrative, Kennedy reveals how the many iterations of the account create a “cross-pollination” or circulation of revolutionary ideas throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe.

26.        Our final essay, Michele Speitz’s "Blood Sugar and Salt Licks: Corroding Bodies and Preserving Nations in The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself," uses the brutal work of the salt flats to link the British colonial project with the revolutionary history of the United States. Exploring the material and metaphoric significance of Prince’s narrative, she argues that the “realities of salt production under slavery corrode the liberatory claims of both nations.” In so doing, her essay extends critical conversations about slave narratives to include the largely overlooked relevance of salt raking to the economies and politics of the Black Atlantic.

27.        Taken together, these five essays advance a criticism attuned to the multiplicity that sleeps and seethes beneath “Romanticism.” If the vortex of the Atlantic creates new cultures—then and now—Black Romanticism makes them visible and promotes their interminable circulations. We’re conjuring spirits here, the voluble but hitherto silenced spirits of the diasporic people whose labor drove the Atlantic economy and whose creativity infected and inflected the culture of their so-called masters. It would be easy to do so as benefactors, but we hope to avoid that presumption. Dayan defines terror as whipping with one hand while comforting with the other: “You harm, and then you alleviate the harm you have caused: the executioner also gets to be the savior; the benevolence continues the brutalization, while claiming otherwise” (206). The trick to conjuring spirits such as those of the slaves that haunt Romanticism is interrupting the legacy of terror that brutalized them.

28.        That means resisting the tendency to situate their messages in advance: as primitive, occult, untutored, “African.” The powerful creative force of enslaved peoples in the West Indies gave rise to cultural forms through which they affirmed their lives under terms of subjection: Obeah, Myal, Voodoo, medicine, cooking, gardening, handicraft, and the like. These were not the customs of distant primitives. They arose in curious and productive contact with European cultures dislocated from their respective metropoles, dominant cultures for which the process of domination produced occasions too for change.

29.        Black Romanticism is a double listening. It respects the spirits of the subjected peoples and tries to hear their shouts and cries and whispers. The Assembly of Jamaica heard only superstition and resistance in Obeah. Sharper ears discover a politics there, an economics, the proud affirmation of dislocated lives creating forms of culture from a mix of inherited, borrowed and found materials. The second register of listening, then, involves the culture of the colonists. Constant exposure to the contagion of slavery infects it to the point of sometimes subtle, sometimes significant mutation. It’s a notorious cliché, but one worth pondering: colonists go native in the West Indies—well, not native but creole. They start to speak a slack patois. They begin to enjoy the local cuisine. They sleep with slaves. In a different but no less decisive way than that of the people who sustain their lives, colonial culture changes.

30.        Kamau (Edward) Brathwaite calls this process creolization and argues that it and not subjection describes the interaction between European and African cultures in the Caribbean. Creolization presumes “a way of seeing the society, not in terms of white and black, master and slave in separate nuclear units, but as contributory parts of a whole” (307). It would be a mistake, then, to view the complex cultures produced in the West Indies as the product of slave societies. Rather, they arise out of a difficult process whereby different peoples “adapt themselves to a new environment and to each other”(307). Creolization in this sense is the heart and soul of Black Romanticism. We conjure spirits to hear the changes they ring on Caribbean and European cultures.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. 1983 Rev ed. London: Verso, 2006. Print.

Aramaduvan, Srivinas. Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804. Durham: Duke UP, 1999. Print.

Balutansky, Kathleen, M. and Marie Agnes Sourieau, eds. Caribbean Creolization: Reflections on the Cultural Dynamics of Language, Literature, and Identity. [n.p.]: University Press of Florida, 1998. Print.

Brathwaite, Edward. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971. Print.

Baucom, Ian. Spectres of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham: Duke UP, 2005. Print.

Carretta, Vincent, ed. Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English Speaking World of the Eighteenth Century. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1996. Print.

Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1701-1837. New Haven: Yale UP, 1992. Print.

Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993. Print.

Hall, Stuart. "Cultural Identity and Diaspora." Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader. Ed. Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. Print.

Hartman, Saidiya V. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford, 1997. Print.

Hutchings Kevin. Romantic Ecologies and Colonial Cultures in the British Atlantic World, 1770-1850. Montreal: McGill UP, 2009. Print.

Lee, Debbie. Slavery and the Romantic Imagination. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2004. Print.

--- and Alan Richardson, eds. Early Black British Writing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Print.

Linebaugh, Peter, and Marcus Rediker. The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon, 2001. Print.

Mellor, Anne and K. Richard Matlak, eds. British Literature, 1780-1830. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1996. Print.

Morisson, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage, 1993. Print.

Newman, Lance, Joel Pace and Chris Koenig-Woodyard, eds. Transatlantic Romanticism: An Anthology of British, American, and Canadian Literature. London: Longman, 2006. Print.

Richardson, Alan and Sonia Hofkosh, eds. Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780-1834. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996. Print.

Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead. New York: Columbia UP, 1996. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 2004. Print.

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

Thomas, Helen. Romanticism and Slave Narratives: Transatlantic Testimonies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.

Verhoeven, W. M. Revolutionary Histories: Transatlantic Cultural Nationalisms, 1770-1815. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print.

Williamson, Katrina, ed. Contrary Voices: Representations of West Indian Slavery, 1657-1834. Kingston: U of West Indies P, 2008. Print.

Wood, Marcus. Slavery, Empathy, and Pornography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.

Wu, Duncan. Romanticism: An Anthology. 3rd ed. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. Print.


[1] Some of the notable exceptions include Richardson and Hofkosh, Lee, Thomas, and Wood. Even these scholars can be dogged by the spectre of what we call “abolitionism,” the tendency of Western scholarship with the best of intentions to fabricate a discourse of blackness it then discovers and advocates, an Africanized Orientalism of the sort Morrison describes. The subaltern can’t get a word in edgewise. BACK

[2] Besides token selections from Equiano and Yearsly, Mellor and Matlak include Maria Edgeworth’s “The Grateful Negro” (1804). But that’s hardly a hymn to cultural crossing. The “Comprehensive Chronology” at the back of their edition, while capacious, persists in neglecting the West Indies. It doesn’t help much to excuse the oversight by referring to the benighted times of the anthology’s original publication (1996). It was reissued in paperback in 2005. That same year, the third edition of Duncan Wu’s implacably titled Romanticism (the category having swallowed any national distinction) hardly nods toward the West Indies in its 1552 pages. One might expect an anthology entitled Transatlantic Romanticism (2006) to feature the Caribbean. However, editors Lance Newman, Joel Pace, and Chris Koenig-Woodyard make nation the condition of Atlantic crossings, building an anthology that does little more than unite the old national entities of England, America, and Canada in a transatlantic horizon of whiteness. In the world of letters, segregation prevails. Black writing from of the Romantic era has its own special neighborhoods. Visit Richardson and Lee’s Early Black British Writers (and notice their nationalization of blackness), or Vincent Caretta’s Unchained Voices. Williamson’s collection, on the other hand, mixes contrary voices in exciting new ways. BACK

[3] Important contributions other than those we mention include Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Ian Baucom, Stuart Hall, W.M. Verhoeven, and Kevin Hutchings. BACK

[4] This line is famously spoken by Miranda at the conclusion of the Tempest. We here also evoke Keats’ perhaps equally renowned quotation, “Great spirits on earth are now sojourning” (from the sonnet of that title, in "To the Same [Haydon]," Poetical Works of 1884, which in turn invokes Wordsworth. BACK

[5] In addition to the work of Joseph Roach, Diana Taylor provides a fantastic study of the relationships between the archive and the repertoire—between written and embodied histories. Saidya Hartman urges us to “brush history against the grain” as a critical element of the “struggle within and against the constraints and silences imposed by the nature of the archive—the system that governs the appearance of statements and generates social meaning” (11). BACK

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Published @ RC

October 2011