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Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South$
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William A. Link, David Brown, Brian Ward, and Martyn Bone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044132.001.0001

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Dark Satanic Fields

Dark Satanic Fields

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Industrialization, and the U.S. Imperial Imaginary

Chapter:
(p.172) (p.173) 8 Dark Satanic Fields
Source:
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South
Author(s):

Jennifer Rae Greeson

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813044132.003.0008

This essay takes the massive popular reading of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the United States in the decade before the Civil War as a collective imaginative inquiry into the civic, ethical, and emotional responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. As such, the novel addresses not only the slavery question, but also the emergence of the United States into the modern industrial and imperial world order. In place of the American Revolution, Stowe’s generation faced the “market revolution,” a perhaps equally transformative symbiosis: rapid industrialization at the northeastern core of the nation spurred and was fed by galloping expansion of its southern and western peripheries and their productive capacities. The epochal transformations of the market revolution, felt first and most acutely at the northeastern centers of U.S. literary production, radically undermined the most basic premises of republican citizenship. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, a U.S. citizen had been understood to be a “freeman,” his independence secured by his possession of both his means of production and an array of people dependent upon him (women, children, servants, slaves). By the eve of the Civil War, though, and under the pressures of industrialization, U.S. citizenship had come to describe a situation that earlier generations would have considered servitude.

Keywords:   Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, slavery, citizenship

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