The antislavery and anti-imperialist poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wynter, Jerome Samuel (2018). The antislavery and anti-imperialist poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was a remarkably consistent advocate for the liberty of enslaved Africans and for the subjugated Italians during the first half of the nineteenth-century. She figured the oppression of the disenfranchised Europeans as an analogue of slavery and viewed antislavery in America and the Italian Risorgimento as part of the same problem stemming from imperial oppression. Despite the unresolved tensions between the emotional commitment to her slave-owing family and to abolitionism, her antislavery corpus – her juvenile abolition poems, her mature works on American slavery and her first volume of poems on the Italian independence – is always anti-imperialist. She engages with, borrows from, challenges and writes back to the mainstream abolitionist discourses of her predecessors and contemporaries to present an alternative image of the enslaved. This thesis considers how she combines the political-material conditions of individualised slave characters with real figures from the historical moment in her poetry, rendering them as actively resisting oppression and achieving their own liberation. Employing the rhetoric of incitement to violence, she encourages her readers to endorse the calls to resistance implied in the poems. My project demonstrates how Barrett Browning draws together the American antislavery movement and the Risorgimento into a single anti-imperialist cause, as part of her life-long commitment to political liberty.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English


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