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Imoinda's Shade

Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, 1759-1808

Lyndon J. Dominique

Publication Year: 2012

As the eighteenth century is entirely bereft of narratives written by African women, one might assume that these women had little to no impact on British literature and the national psyche of the period. Yet these kinds of assumptions are belied by the influence of one prominent African woman featured in the period’s literary texts. Imoinda’s Shade examines the ways in which British writers utilize the most popular African female figure in eighteenth-century fiction and drama to foreground the African woman’s concerns and interests as well as those of a British nation grappling with the problems of slavery and abolition. Imoinda, the fictional phenomenon initially conceived by Aphra Behn and subsequently popularized by Thomas Southerne, has an influence that extends well beyond the Oroonoko novella and drama that established her as a formidable presence during the late Restoration period. This influence is palpably discerned in the characterizations of African women drawn up in novels and dramas written by late-eighteenth-century British writers. Through its examinations of the textual instances from 1759–1808 when Imoinda and her involvement in the Oroonoko marriage plot are being transformed and embellished for politicized ends, Imoinda’s Shade demonstrates how this period’s fictional African women were deliberately constructed by progressive eighteenth-century writers to popularize issues of rape, gynecological rebellion, and miscegenation. Moreover, it shows how these specific African female concerns influence British antislavery, abolitionist, and post-slavery discourse in heretofore unheralded, unusual, and sometimes radical ways.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This project began under the tutelage of Claudia L. Johnson and Jonathan Lamb and was helped along with the good will and support of my former colleagues at Georgetown, especially Dennis Todd, Gay Gibson Cima, Duncan Wu, Joy Younge, Mark McMorris, Patrick O’Malley Paul Betz, John...

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Introduction Imoinda, Marriage, Slavery

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pp. 1-24

IN 1707, the year that the Act of Union between Scotland and England officially established the United Kingdom of Great Britain, two extremely contradictory illustrations of the literary heroine Imoinda appear in genres that are, themselves, extreme exercises in the art of contradiction. In the rst,...

Part One. Imoinda’s Original Shades: African Women in British Antislavery Literature

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pp. 25-39

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1. Altering Oroonoko and Imoinda in Mid-Eighteenth-Century British Drama

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pp. 27-69

THIS CURIOUS EXCHANGE between William, a white European abolitionist, and Ada, a black African slave, appears in the English translation of August von Kotzebue’s unproduced three-act drama, The Negro Slaves (1796). Its peculiarity lies in the unusual way William acknowledges that...

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2. Amelioration, African Women, andthe Soft, Strategic Voice of Paternal Tyranny in The Grateful Negro

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pp. 70-103

I LAUNCH this chapter with three epigrams depicting black men and white women in violently thwarted interracial couplings not simply because this is the familiar arena of interracial love echoed in the Oroonoko play; these couplings also provide a tangential yet critical context for my explorations of...

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3. “Between the saints and the rebels”: Imoinda and the Resurrection of the Black African Heroine

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pp. 104-140

APHRA BEHN must have been well aware that she was establishing a rather unusual prototype for the ideal African heroine when she created “Heroick Imoinda.” In particular, the startling description of this “big” black woman using a poisonous weapon to ward off the rapidly advancing colonial...

Part Two. Imoinda’s Shade Extends: Abolition and Interracial Marriage in England

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pp. 141-155

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4. Creoles, Closure, and Cubba’s Comedy of Pain: Abolition and the Politics of Homecoming in Eighteenth-Century British Farce

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pp. 143-184

FOR FOUR NIGHTS in December 1759, David Garrick1 put on John Hawkesworth’s new adaptation of Thomas Southerne’s popular old play Oroonoko, and in the process, transformed the contemporary landscape of British theater. As I explain in Chapter One, this updated Oroonoko excised...

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5. “‘What!’ cried the delighted mulatto, ‘are we going to prosecu massa?’”: Adeline Mowbray’s Distinguished Complexion of Abolition

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pp. 185-222

THE BLACK SHADE of a mulatto woman’s complexion makes a dramatic entrance midway through Adeline Mowbray (1805),1 Amelia Opie’s third long-prose fiction. At this point in the tale, Opie’s eponymous heroine has become a pariah in English society for steadfastly refusing to marry her...

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6. “An unportioned girl of my complexion can...be a dangerous object.” Abolition and the Mulatto Heiress in England

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pp. 223-259

ON OCTOBER 30, 2005, in a Washington Post op-ed titled “Guess Who? You Can Ask Me, but Don’t Expect an Answer,” Monica Bhide, an Indian critic who writes about “food, culture and their influence on our lives,” narrates several scenes of racial misreading—some disturbing, others...

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pp. 260-267

ON NOVEMBER 7, 2009, Goldsmiths, University of London presented a one-day seminar titled “Words from Other Worlds: Critical Perspectives on Imoinda.” A promotional poster for this seminar states that it was a student-led initiative seeking “to develop a range of critical perspectives on...


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pp. 269-280


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pp. 281-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270509
E-ISBN-10: 0814270506
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211854
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211852

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 19 photos
Publication Year: 2012