Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article examines how abolitionists developed a rhetorical tradition premised on the neologisms colorphobia and Negrophobia in order to posit an affective basis for race prejudice. These concepts functioned initially as puns on hydrophobia, the historical name for rabies, named for the dread of swallowing known to accompany the disease. In other words, colorphobia harbored a precise metaphor in its etymology, picturing the slave system as a mad dog in the throes of a rabid breakdown, spreading race prejudice in the form of an infectious fear. Exploring the forms this rhetoric could take, I demonstrate that while satire thus served as the dominant mode early on, phobia’s emphasis on fear soon began to inspire strategies of public health activism too. Political discourse in the U.S. began to incorporate scientific investigations of fear as a psychological state. I conclude by arguing that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Dred is the most significant work of literature to respond to this rhetorical trend. Skeptical of the move to isolate fear as an exclusively pathological feeling, Stowe endeavors to repurpose a phobic aesthetic in the form of the novel’s protagonist Dred, originally spelled “Dread,” to explore the potential uses of fear as a political affect.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-7438
Print ISSN
2166-742X
Pages
pp. 21-48
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-02
Open Access
No
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