This book is a significant contribution to existing research on the themes of race and slavery in the founding literature of the United States. It extends the boundaries of existing research by locating race and slavery within a transnational and 'oceanic' framework.
The author applies critical concepts developed within postcolonial theory to American texts written between the national emergence of the United States and the Civil War, in order to uncover metaphors of the colonial and imperial 'unconscious' in America's foundational writing. The book analyses the writings of canonized authors such as Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, and Herman Melville alongside those of lesser known writers like Olaudah Equiano, Royall Tyler, Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, and Maxwell Philip, and situates them within the colonial, and 'postcolonial', context of the slave-based economic system of the Black Atlantic.
While placing the transatlantic slave trade on the map of American Studies and viewing it in conjunction with American imperial ambitions in the Pacific, Fictions of the Black Atlantic in American Foundational Literature also adds a historical dimension to present discussions about the 'ambivalence' of postcoloniality.
Table of Contents
1. Chartless Narratives: Ambivalent Postcoloniality and Oceanic Memory in Early American Writing
2. The Emergence of the 'Postcolonial' Atlantic: Equiano's Narrative and Tyler's Algerine Captive
3. Textual and Geographical Displacement in Arthur Mervyn and The Red Rover
4. Ambivalent Atlantic: Slaveship Memories in Antebellum Writing
5. Metaphorical Atlantic: Antebellum Fictions of the Pacific
Gesa Mackenthun is Professor of American Studies at Rostock University, Germany. Her books include an analysis of early modern colonial discourse, Metaphors of Dispossession (1997), and a forthcoming collection of essays, co-edited with Bernhard Klein, on the history of oceans, Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean. Her main work is in the fields of American Studies, colonial discourse and postcolonial theory