With a Barbarous Din
This study re-examines the mid-1850s, a time that remains central to American literary studies, exploring new ways of looking at this cultural moment through the twentieth-century concept of 'ethnicity.' This approach uncovers the hidden subversiveness of American literature as it responded to scientific race theory in the debate over slavery and also highlights the ways in which the texts examined in this study - Herman Melville's Benito Cereno (1855), Frederick Douglass' 'My Bondage and My Freedom' (1855), Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Dred' (1856), Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass' (1855), and John Rollin Ridge's 'The Life and Adventures of Joaqín Murieta' (1854) - powerfully resonate with ideas of affiliation and difference today. Focusing on a brief historical moment in the past from a decidedly twenty-first century perspective, the study reflects upon the texts' movement through time and demonstrates how race and ethnicity in these texts have been transformed under the pressures of history.
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