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American BloodThe Ends of the Family in American Literature, 1850-1900$
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Holly Jackson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199317042

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199317042.001.0001

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“The Character of a Family” in Stowe’s Dred

“The Character of a Family” in Stowe’s Dred

On the Limits of Alternative Kinship

(p.69) Chapter 3 “The Character of a Family” in Stowe’s Dred
American Blood

Holly Jackson

Oxford University Press

Turning to the American author perhaps most associated with the enshrinement of domestic kinship, this chapter argues that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s second novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856), surprisingly deconstructs both scientific and sentimental conceptions of the family, the very locus of cultural power that she had so masterfully mobilized in Uncle Tom’s Cabin only four years earlier. While recent readings of this work have emphasized the importance of elective kin paradigms to this genre, this chapter considers sentimentalism’s relationship to the discourses of racial and national families theorized in the polygenesist Types of Mankind and the Dred Scott decision. The interracial communities at this novel’s end that scholars have insistently characterized as alternative families provide an opportunity to explore the limits of kinship as a basis for coalitional politics in a society defined by exclusionary political familialism.

Keywords:   Stowe, Harriet Beecher, alternative kinship, Types of Mankind, polygenesis, Dred Scott, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp

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