Transatlantic Spectacles of Race
The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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Tracing the textual genealogies of the Tragic Mulatta and Tragic Muse has taken me from archives in Charleston and New Orleans to libraries in London and Paris. It would have been impossible to study the transatlantic circulation of textual bodies...
Introduction: "I Thought That to Seem Was to Be": Spectacles of Race in the Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Imaginary
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In early July 1862, the American actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken had just completed a successful run at the Bowery Theater in New York City, where she captivated audiences in a range of productions, including...
1. "Stamped and Molded by Pleasure": The Transnational Mulatta in Jamaica and Saint-Domingue
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In February 1789, three years before the Saint-Domingue Revolution began, Baron de Wimpffen made the following appeal in his travel narrative: “Let us introduce good morals into Saint Domingo. Let the planters, instead of attaching themselves to those black...
2. "Fascinating Allurements of Gold": New Orleans's "Copper-Colored Nymphs" and the Tragic Mulatta
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If the ship carrying Zelica and her betrothed, Lastour, had docked in New Orleans in April 1804, the couple from Leonara Sansay’s novel might not have been allowed to disembark immediately. Like many other refugees from Saint-Domingue who immigrated...
3. "Oh Heavens! What Am I?": The Tragic Mulatta as Sensation Heroine
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Published the year before Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Octoroon; or, The Lily of Louisiana (1861) opens in a crowded ballroom during the London season of 1860. Cora Leslie, an American girl born on a plantation near...
4. "I Wonder What Market He Means That Daughter For": The Beautiful Jewess and the Tragic Muse
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Before the Jewish actress Rachel Félix debuted at the Théâtre-Français in 1838, the title “Tragic Muse” stood for a figure English, white, chaste, and matronly. These traits were embodied by the famous tragic actress Mrs. Sarah Siddons...
5. "After All, Living Is but to Play a Part": The Tragic Mulatta Plays the Tragic Muse
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Marie Lavington, the runaway octoroon slave in Charles Kingsley’s littleread novel Two Years Ago, makes the above declaration of independence in a letter to Tom Thurnall, the novel’s hero. Though Tom helped her escape to a Canadian Quaker...
Conclusion: “I Know What I Am”: Race and the Triumphant “New Woman”
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Although Charles Kingsley and Lydia Maria Child redefine Victorian womanhood so that it encompasses nonwhite women who previously circulated as commodities in the public sphere, their texts conclude with the mixed-race heroines passing, or at the very least...
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About the Author
Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 13 photogrpahs
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The American Literatures Initiative