The Slave Trade in British and American Literature Criticism: Depictions By White Writers - Essay

William Heffernan (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Slave Trade and Abolition in Travel Literature,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 34, No. 2, April-June 1973, pp. 185-208.

[In the following essay, Heffernan surveys the depiction of the slave trade in travel literature by eighteenth-century white authors, which he argues provides greater insight into public opinion than does imaginative writing of the same period. Travel writing about Africa, he maintains, was a genre that shaped white attitudes toward blacks and provided the substance for pro- and anti-abolitionist arguments.]

Much has been written about the relationship between the anti-slavery poems, plays, and novels that appeared with...

(The entire section is 10238 words.)

Keith A. Sandiford (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Intellectual Milieu: Contexts for Black Writing,” in Measuring the Moment: Strategies of Protest in Eighteenth-Century Afro-English Writing, Associated University Presses, 1988, pp. 43-72.

[In the following excerpt, Sandiford provides an overview of white authors' writings on slavery and the slave trade in Britain from the 1680s to the end of the eighteenth century, and argues that the convergence of ideological currents during this time created a more favorable climate in which blacks could live and write.]

The antislavery movement did not win the concerted advocacy of belletristic writers until the last three decades of the eighteenth century. The...

(The entire section is 4863 words.)

Deidre Coleman (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Conspicuous Consumption: White Abolitionism and English Women's Protest Writing in the 1780s,” in ELH, Vol. 61, No. 2, Summer 1994, pp. 341-62.

[In the following essay, Coleman examines late eighteenth-century British texts discussing slavery and women's rights, and notes that even liberal-minded white writers sought to preserve what they viewed as the essential boundaries between whites and blacks.]

In this paper I wish to examine two overlapping areas of middle-class polemmic from the 1790s: white abolitionism and English women's protest writing. A certain polarization has crept into recent discussions of abolitionism, with some critics arguing that a...

(The entire section is 8376 words.)

Ann Fogarty (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Looks That Kill: Violence and Representation in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko,” in The Discourse of Slavery: Aphra Behn to Toni Morrison, edited by Carl Plasa and Betty J. Ring, Routledge, 1994, pp. 1-17.

[In the following essay, Fogarty offers a new reading of Aphra Behn's 1688 novel Oroonoko, arguing that the novel does not reveal parallelisms bewteen slavery and the subjugation of women as has generally been held, but rather emphasizes that a harmonious co-existence between the black slave and his white female friend is an impossibility.]

Aphra Behn's novella with its violent account of the execution of an African slave who was once a king was...

(The entire section is 6281 words.)

Joyce Green MacDonald (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Disappearing African Woman: Imoinda in Oroonoko After Behn,” in ELH, Vol. 66, No. 1, 1999, pp. 71-86.

[In the following essay, MacDonald discusses why the character of Oronooko's black African wife, Imoinda, in Aphra Behn's novel Oroonoko is depicted as white in later adaptations of the work. The critic claims that Imoinda's whiteness is used to suppress the facts of racial and gender conflict and to confer racial authority on white women.]

At the climax of a mid-eighteenth-century heroic tragedy, the black hero, discovered in a private chamber with the dead body of his white wife, urges the white men who come upon the sight to “Put up...

(The entire section is 7555 words.)