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Specters of DemocracyBlackness and the Aesthetics of Politics in the Antebellum U.S.$
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Ivy G. Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337372.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 30 July 2021

Merely Rhetorical

Merely Rhetorical

Virtual Democracy in William Wells Brown's Clotel

(p.37) 2 Merely Rhetorical
Specters of Democracy

Ivy G. Wilson

Oxford University Press

This chapter illustrates how Brown's understanding of the oratorical forms of rhetoric including addresses, debates, and speeches depends upon recognizing how he distinguishes “rhetoric proper” from the “merely rhetorical.” By examining the various modes of rhetoric in Clotel (1853) from formal speeches to seemingly mundane songs, it outlines an African American engagement with the Declaration of Independence and Patrick Henry's maxim to contest the institution of chattel slavery. Central to the book's larger claims about how blacks participated in the civic sphere and as an example of what Harriet Mullen has called “resistant orality,” the chapter underscores Brown's use of the slave Sam's ostensibly rudimentary and unskillful song as a model for how Brown's own novel itself assumes the form of political discourse.

Keywords:   Declaration of Independence, Nat Turner, subversive speech, African American, Brown, code-switching, Patrick Henry, emancipation, revolution, dialect

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