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Spectacular Suffering : Witnessing Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic (Hardcover)
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Offering an engaging account of the representation of slavery in eighteenth-century British literature,Spectacular Suffering challenges the dominant conceptions of slave agency and of sentimentalism in the works of prominent writers from the period. In this book, Ramesh Mallipeddi seeks to map the conditions under which slave distress emerged as a topic of emotional concern and political intervention in the long eighteenth century. Concentrating on two defining features of Atlantic slavery—commodification and punishment—alongside the literary methods of sentimentality, Mallipeddi investigates how melancholy sentiment mediated colonial relations between English citizens and Caribbean slaves. Specifically, he asks how the extension of sympathy was shaped by literary forms such as the prose romance, periodical essay, heroic epistle, sentimental novel, and slave narrative.
Focusing on the way that writers such as Aphra Behn, Richard Steele, Laurence Sterne, Olaudah Equiano, and Mary Prince deploy the conventions of sympathy, the author also examines how the black slave emerges both as an object of compassion and as a sympathetic witnessing subject. Mallipeddi’s careful, considered accounting of primary texts and his syntheses of important historical and critical work combine to offer nuanced and persuasive insights into a broad range of texts from throughout the long eighteenth century.