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Domestic Allegories of Political DesireThe Black Heroine’s Text at the Turn of the Century$
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Claudia Tate

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195108576

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195108576.001.0001

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Maternal Discourse as Antebellum Social Protest

Maternal Discourse as Antebellum Social Protest

(p.23) 1 Maternal Discourse as Antebellum Social Protest
Domestic Allegories of Political Desire


Oxford University Press

This chapter starts by looking back to the mid-nineteenth-century works of two antebellum writers, namely, Harriet A. Jacobs and Harriet E. Wilson. These pieces constructed the cultural network in the early tradition of African American writing, and manipulated the reformist discourse of domesticity to build protests against oppression, particularly sexual and racial discrimination. The objectives of these post-reconstruction novels were discernable not so much as the ideal imagery of domesticity, but as depictions of “sentimental power” as coined by Jane Tompkins. This sentimental power recovers political desire from the domestic ambitions shown in the antebellum and post-reconstruction works. These include two chapters on “the kitchen politics of abolitionism” and on “politicizing the black mother’s voice.”

Keywords:   Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, antebellum, post-reconstruction, sentimental power

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