Imagining a Future South: David Walker's Appeal and Antebellum American Literature Open Access

Leavell, Lori Ann (2011)

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Imagining a Future South:
David Walker's Appeal and Antebellum American Literature
By Lori A. Leavell

"Imagining a Future South" traces the literary impact of a black-authored, revolutionary
antislavery pamphlet, David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World
(1829, 1830) , on antebellum American literature. Scholarship by Peter P. Hinks, John
Ernest, Herbert Aptheker, and Lacy K. Ford establishes the importance of the Appeal
both to African American rhetorical traditions and to the antebellum South's legislative
response to antislavery print. But the Appeal also left heretofore unrecognized marks on
fiction. Foregrounding the pamphlet's rhetorical effort to catalyze white fear of black
violence, my project charts the multiple-and often muted-ways in which antebellum
literature registers awareness of the pamphlet, engages in dialogue with it, and borrows
its rhetoric.

Addressing the Appeal's impact on fiction by black and white writers, my dissertation
makes two key interventions. First, it historicizes and theorizes appeals to fear, de-
naturalizing the turn to rhetorical stridency evident in the slavery debates. Second, it
challenges the ongoing tendency to treat American, African American, and Southern as
distinct literary traditions, offering a model for recognizing submerged literary dialogues
and attending to the ways in which black-authored texts have been generative for white
authors. "Imagining a Future South" thus recalibrates our understanding of the issues-
and texts-that have been generative for literary history.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Something Other than Haunted: Fear, Futurity, and Literary History 1

Chapter One
"But if they do not have enough to be frightened for yet, it will be":
Functional Fear in David Walker's Appeal 31

Chapter Two
Caroline Hentz's Dialogue with Militant Abolition in The Planter's
Northern Bride 73

Chapter Three
Abolitionist Rhetorics of Fear in Stowe's Dred and Delany's Blake 113

Chapter Four
The Circuitous Literary Routes of an "Unlucky Pamphlet":
Locating Walker's Appeal in Poe's "The Gold-Bug" and Bird's Sheppard Lee 172

Symptoms and Surfaces:
The Literary Marks of Walker's Appeal on Antebellum America 209

Works Cited 222

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