By Robert Fanuzzi
Echoes of Thomas Paine and Enlightenment notion resonate in the course of the abolitionist circulation and within the efforts of its leaders to create an anti-slavery studying public. In Abolition's Public Sphere Robert Fanuzzi seriously examines the writings of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, and Sarah and Angelina Grimke and their substantial abolition exposure campaign-pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, and public gatherings-geared to an viewers of white male voters, loose black noncitizens, ladies, and the enslaved. together with provocative readings of Thoreau's Walden and of the symbolic house of Boston's Faneuil corridor, Abolition's Public Sphere demonstrates how abolitionist public discourse sought to reenact eighteenth-century eventualities of revolution and democracy within the antebellum period. Fanuzzi illustrates how the dissemination of abolitionist tracts served to create an "imaginary public" that promoted and provoked the dialogue of slavery. in spite of the fact that, via embracing Enlightenment abstractions of liberty, cause, and development, Fanuzzi argues, abolitionist approach brought aesthetic issues that challenged political associations of the general public sphere and winning notions of citizenship. Insightful and thought-provoking, Abolition's Public Sphere questions normal types of abolitionist historical past and, within the approach, our realizing of democracy itself. Robert Fanuzzi is an affiliate professor of English at St. John's college, manhattan.
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Extra info for Abolition's Public Sphere
He described the abolitionists in the midst of their persecution as alienated, belated participants in a lapsed historical drama, and while this might have accorded with the potential for vulnerability and failure that Kant built into the narration of modernity, it did not put a stop to his own narration or prevent the abolitionists from adopting the role of protagonists. For Garrison, the difWculty of staging the epochal events of the Enlightenment in the present day seemed to generate a still more expansive vision of “swift progress” based speciWcally on the political agency of a people.
The success of his venture can be measured by the currency of his name, which, in the form of the appellation “Garrisonism,” could be said to share the properties of The Liberator itself and signify nothing less than the promise of unlimited publicity. With chapter 3, “Frederick Douglass’s Public Body,” however, we can begin to test the possibility of rendering a public sphere in the analogical form that both Garrison and Douglass proposed. For Douglass, his own “colored” newspaper, The North Star, represented the best chance for literate African Americans to substantiate their claims not just on citizenship but on a recognizably republican representation of citizenship based on the quality of manliness.
Even the abolitionists’ cultural politics was more political than cultural, at least in this ideological sense. Their signal expression of afWnity with the oppressed, their insistence on the anachronism of their historical position, helped to reproduce a narrative of political modernity that guaranteed the appearance of a people. A more critical possibility for the narration of modernity has been imagined in the postcolonial criticism of Bhabha, who would rewrite Kant’s reXections on the “lessons of repeated experience” from the perspective of the oppressed: The sign of history does not consist in an essence of the event itself, nor exclusively in the immediate consciousness of its agents and actors, but in its form as a spectacle, spectacle that signiWes because of the distanciation and displacement between the event and those who are its spectators.
Abolition's Public Sphere by Robert Fanuzzi