University of Georgia Press
Focusing on a range of important antislavery figures, including David Walker, Nat Turner, Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, Apocalyptic Sentimentalism illustrates how antislavery discourse worked to redefine violence and vengeance as the ultimate expression (rather than denial) of love and sympathy. At the same time, these warnings of apocalyptic retribution enabled antislavery writers to express, albeit indirectly, fantasies of brutal violence against slaveholders. What began as a sentimental strategy quickly became an incendiary gesture, with antislavery reformers envisioning the complete annihilation of slaveholders and defenders of slavery.
“Kevin Pelletier’s Apocalyptic Sentimentalism makes an important and original contribution to critical debates about the structure and logic of sympathy in the antebellum period. Through careful readings of abolitionist literature from David Walker through Maria Stewart, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown, he reveals just how significant the threat of apocalypse and its concomitant production of fear worked in concert with appeals to sympathy and, as Stowe put it, ‘feeling right.’”
—Cindy Weinstein, author of Family, Kinship, and Sympathy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature