The War On Words: Slavery, Race, And Free Speech In American Literature

Paperback | December 6, 2013

byMichael T. Gilmore

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How did slavery and race impact American literature in the nineteenth century? In this ambitious book, Michael T. Gilmore argues that they were the carriers of linguistic restriction, and writers from Frederick Douglass to Stephen Crane wrestled with the demands for silence and circumspection that accompanied the antebellum fear of disunion and the postwar reconciliation between the North and South.

Proposing a radical new interpretation of nineteenth-century American literature, The War on Words examines struggles over permissible and impermissible utterance in works ranging from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” to Henry James’s The Bostonians. Combining historical knowledge with groundbreaking readings of some of the classic texts of the American past, The War on Words places Lincoln’s Cooper Union address in the same constellation as Margaret Fuller’s feminism and Thomas Dixon’s defense of lynching. Arguing that slavery and race exerted coercive pressure on freedom of expression, Gilmore offers here a transformative study that alters our understanding of nineteenth-century literary culture and its fraught engagement with the right to speak.

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How did slavery and race impact American literature in the nineteenth century? In this ambitious book, Michael T. Gilmore argues that they were the carriers of linguistic restriction, and writers from Frederick Douglass to Stephen Crane wrestled with the demands for silence and circumspection that accompanied the antebellum fear of dis...

Michael T. Gilmore is the Paul Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature at Brandeis University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:340 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:December 6, 2013Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022610169X

ISBN - 13:9780226101699

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Part I: Slavery, Race, and Free Speech

Part II: Antebellum


Emerson: Prospects

Thoreau: Words as Deeds

Fuller: History, Biography, and Criticism

Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent

Stowe: From the Sacramental to the Old Testamental

Part III: Antebellum/Postbellum

Speech and Silence in Douglass

Whitman: From Sayer-Doer to Sayer-Copyist

Slit Throats in Melville

"Speak, man!": Billy Budd in the Crucible of Reconstruction

Intertext: "Bartleby, the Scrivener"

Part IV: Postbellum

Tourgée: Margin and Center (with an Addendum on Jackson and the Indian Question)

James and the Monotone of Reunion

Was Twain Black?

Crane and the Tyranny of Twelve

Choking in Chesnutt

Dixon and the Rebirth of Discursive Power

Timeline

Notes

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Michael T. Gilmore’s execution of his thesis is vigorous, enlightening, and arguable in a positive sense.”