Rethinking Uncle Tom
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Rethinking Uncle Tom

The Political Thought of Harriet Beecher Stowe
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William B. Allen
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Rethinking Uncle Tom thoroughly explains Uncle Tom's Cabin as an articulation of the conditions of democratic life and the nature of modern humanism. The most mature elements of Stowe's political thought emerge from a close reading of Sunny Memories and of Oldtown Folks. This book develops familiarity with the moral discourse of abolition and nineteenth-century reformism, and it offers a glimpse of an America envisioned as producing a nobility of soul represented in the human model of surpassing excellence.
Generally critics and interpreters of Uncle Tom have constructed a one-way view of Uncle Tom, albeit offering a few kind words for Uncle Tom along the way. Recovering Uncle Tom requires re-telling his story. This book delivers on that mission, while accomplishing something no other work on Harriet Beecher Stowe has fully attempted: an in-depth statement of her political thought. Heroeuvre, in partnership with that of her husband Calvin, constitutes a demonstration of the permanent necessity of moral and prudential judgment in human affairs. Moreover, it identifies the political conditions that can best guarantee conditions of decency. Her two disciplinesDphilosophy and poetryDilluminate the founding principles of the American republic and remedy defects in their realization that were evident in mid-nineteenth century. While slavery is not the only defect, its persistence and expansion indicate the overall shortcomings. In four of her chief works (Uncle Tom's Cabin,Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands,Dred, andOldtown Folks), Stowe teaches not only how to eliminate the defect of slavery, but also how to realize and maintain a regime founded on the basis of natural rights and Christianity. Further, she identifies the proper vehicle for educating citizens so they might reliably be ruled by decent public opinion. Book one, part one of Rethinking Uncle Tom explains Uncle Tom's Cabin within the context of the Stowes' joint project, an articulation of the conditions of democratic life and the appropriate nature of modern humanism. Book two, parts one and two, analyses how key elements of Calvin's thinking were conveyed by Stowe's works, while distinguishing her thought from his, and examines the importance of her 'political geography' and the breadth of her thinking on cultural, moral, and political matters. Parts three and four investigate the most mature elements of Stowe's political thought, providing a close reading of Sunny MemoriesDrevealing the full political purpose of that work, discerned through mastery of its complex symbolismDand of Oldtown Folks, which completes the development of Stowe's political thought by assessing three alternative regimes and by presenting a vision of anutopia: the ultimate life of decency and order which is proof against false dreams of rationalized life. Rethinking Uncle Tom provides readers both better familiarity with the moral discourse of abolition and nineteenth-century reformism, and, more importantly, a glimpse of an America envisioned as producing that nobility of soul that Uncle Tom represented, the human model of surpassing excellence.
Chapter 1 PrefacePart 2 Book I. The Ghostly Cry:Uncle Tom's CabinPart 3 Part IChapter 4 Chapter 1. The Question of EqualityChapter 5 Chapter 2. The Real AlternativesChapter 6 Chapter 3. Standards of HumanityChapter 7 Chapter 4. Stowe's Own IntroductionsChapter 8 Chapter 5. A Little Wine and Brandy: The Narrative BeginsChapter 9 Chapter 6. Patriarchy, Matriarchy, and other Myths of SlaveryChapter 10 Chapter 7. The Birth of Uncle TomChapter 11 Chapter 8. The Kinesis of Slavery and the Science of NaturesChapter 12 Chapter 9. “What Country Have I?”Chapter 13 Chapter 10. We Have No CityChapter 14 Chapter 11. The Light of the PresentChapter 15 Chapter 12. Myth Making and the EndChapter 16 Chapter 13. An Unaccountable PrejudiceChapter 17 Chapter 14. TriumphPart 18 Part IIChapter 19 Chapter 15. The Genealogy of Uncle TomChapter 20 Chapter 16. Calvin's IdeasChapter 21 Chapter 17. The Central Problem: SlaveryChapter 22 Chapter 18. The General Significance of Uncle Tom's CabinPart 23 Book II. Non-utopian Optimism: Harriet Stowe'sEvangelical LiberalismPart 24 Part IChapter 25 Chapter 19. An American Campaign AbroadChapter 26 Chapter 20. A Cause CélèbreChapter 27 Chapter 21. Seasickness; or, The Way Things Really LookChapter 28 Chapter 22. The Scotland Campaign: A Beginning and End of Liberal HistoryChapter 29 Chapter 23. The Practical Politics of the MatterChapter 30 Chapter 24. The Defense of MelodramaChapter 31 Chapter 25. Pre-utopian ReflectionsPart 32 Part IIChapter 33 Chapter 26. AnutopiaChapter 34 Chapter 27. Coda–Was Harriet Stowe a RacistChapter 35 Chapter 28. Postscript

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