Abolition's Public Sphere by Robert Fanuzzi

By Robert Fanuzzi

Echoes of Thomas Paine and Enlightenment concept resonate in the course of the abolitionist circulation and within the efforts of its leaders to create an anti-slavery analyzing 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 sizeable abolition exposure campaign-pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, and public gatherings-geared to an viewers of white male electorate, unfastened black noncitizens, girls, and the enslaved. together with provocative readings of Thoreau's Walden and of the symbolic area of Boston's Faneuil corridor, Abolition's Public Sphere demonstrates how abolitionist public discourse sought to reenact eighteenth-century situations 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. despite the fact that, through embracing Enlightenment abstractions of liberty, cause, and growth, Fanuzzi argues, abolitionist method brought aesthetic matters that challenged political associations of the general public sphere and triumphing notions of citizenship. Insightful and thought-provoking, Abolition's Public Sphere questions normal models of abolitionist historical past and, within the technique, our knowing of democracy itself. Robert Fanuzzi is an affiliate professor of English at St. John's collage, big apple.

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had indicted Kneeland for reprinting several articles derogatory to the clergy. The prosecuting attorney for the commonwealth revealed his true object when he condemned the defendant for popularizing the works of Hume, Voltaire, and Volney et al. ”11 Kneeland was found guilty, that is, of promoting an Enlightenment doctrine of rationalist free inquiry among an allegedly uneducated working class, a crime that had been attached to deism since the 1790s and speciWcally to the publication of Age of Reason.

Writing in 1838 to a dubious friend and colleague, Samuel May, Garrison claimed that nonresistance “denies to no man the right to think, speak and act, except as his reason and conscience may dictate,”19 and thereafter publicized the controversial theory as if it vindicated nothing more than the principles of free speech. ”21 Nonresistance, then, did not compel abolitionists to abandon the object of their publicity campaign or to forswear the formation of a public sphere. In advocating the paciWst strategy, Garrison in fact was attempting to formalize his conviction that little else was required for the abolition of slavery than free discussion, and he moved to exclude more purposive, coordinated political action on that basis.

The importance of the philosophy of the beautiful and the sublime,” writes Lyotard, “lies both in the de-realisation of the object of aesthetic feelings, and in the absence of . . the historicopolitical object, which as such has no reality, and . . 57 Lyotard’s conclusion—“Revolutionary politics is based on a transcendental illusion”—might appear to reduce the abolitionists’ political project to nothing more than misprision, but his technical use of the term “transcendental” means that he is following a Kantian tradition of implicating the activity and techniques of the imagination in any cognition, especially one regarding the course or direction of history.

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