African-British Writings in the Eighteenth Century: The Politics of Race and Reason
The presence of slavery in Britain aroused much debate among blacks and whites alike, and the literature of the eighteenth century reflects that debate. This book examines representations of blacks in eighteenth-century British literature to illuminate the discussions about race during that period. The volume begins with a discussion of Alexander Pope's popularization of the Great Chain of Being in his Essay on Man, which argued the universal ranking of humanity and which provided an intellectual foundation for slavery. It then examines the works of several white canonical writers, including Defoe, Addison and Steele, Swift, and Sterne, to see how blacks are portrayed in their works. The volume also examines works by African-British writers, such as James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, who expose exclusionary practices among some theologians; Ignatius Sancho, whose Letters show how slaves were taught to be grateful, and how those lacking gratitude were considered inhuman; and Olaudah Equiano, who shows how racial hierarchies function as a literary trope, particularly in travel literature. The final chapter, on The History of Mary Prince, examines the interaction of race and gender.