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Chakkalakal, Tess
Novel bondage : slavery, marriage, and freedom in nineteenth-century America / Tess Chakkalakal
Alternate Title Slavery, marriage, and freedom in nineteenth-century America
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2011
book jacket
Location Call Number Status
 4th Floor  PS217.S55 C45 2011    AVAILABLE
Subject(s) Slavery in literature
Marriage in literature
Slaves -- United States -- Social conditions
African Americans in literature
Physical Description 145 p. ; 24 cm
Note Includes bibliographical references (p. [133]-138) and index
Contents The slave-marriage plot -- Between fiction and experience: William Wells Brown's Clotel -- Dred and the freedom of marriage: Harriet Beecher Stowe's fiction of law -- Free, black, and married: Frank J. Webb's the Garies and their friends -- "A legally unmarried race" : Frances Harper's marital mission -- Wedded to race: Charles Chesnutt's stories of the color line -- Reading Hannah Crafts in the twenty-first century
Summary This book reworks classic literary texts to explore the unconventional union of slave-marriage. It unravels the interconnections between marriage, slavery, and freedom through renewed readings of canonical nineteenth-century novels and short stories by black and white authors. The author mines antislavery and post Civil War fiction to extract literary representations of slave-marriage, revealing how these texts and their public responses took aim not only at the horrors of slavery but also at the legal conventions of marriage. Situating close readings of fiction alongside archival material concerning the actual marriages of authors such as Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, and Frank J. Webb, the author examines how these early novels established literary conventions for describing the domestic lives of American slaves in describing their aspirations for personal and civic freedom. Exploring this theme in post Civil War works by Frances E. W. Harper and Charles Chesnutt, she further reveals how the slave-marriage plot served as a fictional model for reforming marriage laws. As nonlegal unions, slave-marriages departed in crucial ways from the prevailing definition of marriage, and she reveals how these highly unconventional unions constituted an aesthetic and affective bond that challenged the legal definition of marriage in nineteenth-century America. This book invites readers to rethink the "marital work" of nineteenth-century fiction and the historical role it played in shaping our understanding of the literary and political meaning of marriage, then and now

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