Alterities and Abolitionist Forms: Genres of British Abolitionist Literature, 1790-1830

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Patricia A. Matthew and Manu Samriti Chander
contact email: 

Essay abstracts solicited for for inclusion in a proposed special journal issue on the following topic:


Alterities and Abolitionist Forms: Genres of British Abolitionist Literature, 1790-1830


The conversation about literature that circulated in response to Britain’s debates about the slave trade has moved beyond considering Equiano’s Interesting Narrative as the representative text of British abolitionist discourse.  Debbie Lee and Peter Kitson’s eight-volume Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period was followed by projects that not only upended how many Romanticists considered the Romantic canon as a whole but also made clear how deeply ingrained questions of national identity and race were to the major figures of the period.  Lee (Slavery and the Romantic Imagination) Youngquist (Race, Romanticism and the Atlantic), and Gottleib (Global Romanticism) have not only moved us beyond Equiano but have opened up a space to consider questions of alterity, national identity, and genre.


As part of the current critical discourse that takes up questions of alterity and globalism in the wake of newly discovered abolitionist texts, we propose a special journal issue that invites contributors to engage collectively with “abolitionist forms”--literary genres and formal innovation, as well as cultural formations (societies, organizations, coteries, etc.), and diverse, non-verbal means of communicating about slavery and emancipation (material goods, visual texts). We are particularly interested in essays that take up the following questions, though we are open to essays that take up issues and ideas related to the texts, figures, and movements associated with the period:


  • Can we speak of abolition as genre—as a way of producing/marketing literature, a series of expectations, a discrete set of purposes, styles, forms that cross traditional generic boundaries?
  • In what ways did abolition inspire or require new forms of literary communication, or revisions of traditional generic categories?
  • Where do form and content intersect in this debate, and how is that disrupted by the cultural limits placed on white women writers and their complicated investment in using the abolitionist movement as a way to further their own cause for independence and equity?
  • How did abolition contribute to the formation of social groups in which historically marginalized subjects were given voice?
  • To what extent can we speak of abolition in the singular and what are the limits of history that can be exposed/transcended by theory/literature?
  • How does the use of new technology to uncover/recover under examined sources and the proliferation of online archives shape discourses around raced bodies, particularly for novices?

300-word abstracts due to Patricia Matthew, Associate Professor of English, Montclair State University,, or Manu Samriti Chander, Assistant Professor of English, Rutgers University-Newark,, by March 31, 2017.