Virtual Democracy in William Wells Brown's Clotel
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.
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