By Kevin Pelletier
targeting more than a few vital anti-slavery figures, together with David Walker, Nat Turner, Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism illustrates how antislavery discourse labored to redefine violence and vengeance because the final expression (rather than denial) of affection and sympathy. on the sametime, those warnings of apocalyptic retribution enabled antislavery writers to specific, albeit ultimately, fantasies of brutal violence opposed to slaveholders. What all started as a sentimental technique fast grew to become an incendiary gesture, with antislavery reformers envisioning the whole annihilation of slaveholders and defenders of slavery.
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Additional resources for Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature
Indeed, for some nineteenthcentury Americans, the apocalypse was a form of entertainment. The fact that it could appear rather ordinary and familiar within various entertainment media does not negate the apocalypse’s capacity to inspire great fear. How it functioned and the types of responses it generated depended on the specific form the apocalypse took within a given context. The manner in which a minister communicated apocalyptic theology in a sermon and its purposes therein were often quite different from how it manifested and operated in novels (though, of course, they could be quite similar as well).
The people of the South, Eastman argues throughout the novel, have done a more than sufficient job of caring for their slaves. ” 58 In these final passages from the novel, Eastman returns to some of the emblematic sentimental tropes of Stowe’s novel, namely, the need among citizens to concentrate on family and to care for those less fortunate. Eastman’s sentimental response to the national conflict over slavery mirrors Stowe’s. And just like Stowe, Eastman concludes with words of wrath to underscore and incentivize her ostensible commitment to love.
By 1859, when Brown led the raid on the federal arsenal, ideas of vengeance had become so deeply enfolded within a sentimental epistemology that Brown’s supporters could describe, without a shred of irony or contradiction, his violent insurgency as a properly loving act toward slaves. In a very real sense, then, it is sentimentalism itself that made John Brown possible. With John Brown, however, there comes a reversal in the sentimental structure that I chart for most of the book. Rather than threats of vengeance being used as a motivating source for love and a meaningful response to slavery, it is John Brown’s love that precedes and is the catalyst behind the violent acts he commits, a view he reiterates throughout his letters from prison.
Apocalyptic Sentimentalism: Love and Fear in U.S. Antebellum Literature by Kevin Pelletier