The Captive Stage

The Captive Stage : Performance and the Proslavery Imagination of the Antebellum North

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The Captive Stage offers the first cultural history of proslavery ideology in the antebellum United States. While previous studies of performance and literary culture in the period have overwhelmingly focused on an antislavery theme, in fact the majority of representations of slavery before the Civil War explicitly defended the institution or accepted it as constitutive of American life. To address this lacuna, Douglas A. Jones, Jr. traces the pervasiveness of proslavery ideology in the antebellum period, charting its functionality in the social, cultural, and racial imaginary in the most unexpected of places: the free North. Even after northern states outlawed slavery in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, many of their constituencies continued to profit from imagining and embodying black bondage in positive terms. These gains were not just economic and political but also cognitive and psychological, and reflect the multiple and frequently contradictory ways that Americans across personal and collective difference used proslavery ideology to conceptualize the interrelation of race, subjectivity, and society. Furthermore, The Captive Stage pays particular attention to the ways in which African Americans' claims to universal freedom and citizenship influenced the shape of these proslaveryinflected conceptualizations.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 22.86mm | 521.63g
  • Ann Arbor, United States
  • English
  • 0472072269
  • 9780472072262

Review quote

"In The Captive Stage, Doug Jones offers an engaging, theoretically nuanced, and richly detailed historical study of antebellum performances by prominent artists and public intellectuals, including T.D. Rice, William Wells Brown, and Frederick Douglass. Closely reading plays and public lectures, he identifies the "proslavery imagination" of white northerners, a romantic racialist view of African Americans as being unworthy of (or not yet ready for) social equality, and chronicles the efforts of select black performers to challenge that worldview. His book meaningfully and significantly contributes to the study of nineteenth-century American culture as well as critical understandings of embodied black experience."
--Harvey Young, Northwestern University

--Harvey Young, Northwestern University "The Captive Stage makes a substantive and exciting contribution to the growing body of literature examining performances of race, slavery, and citizenship in nineteenth-century American culture."
--Heather Nathans, Tufts University

--Heather Nathans, Tufts University "In this original, vigorous, and deeply researched book, Douglas Jones offers a powerful new perspective on antebellum racial politics. With devastating precision, Jones implicates the antebellum stage as a major site through which white Northerners--and, inadvertently, some African Americans--cultivated a proslavery imagination. Thus the book challenges scholarly conventions that locate proslavery ideology primarily below the Mason-Dixon Line or that consider performance mainly as a source of social transgression or political resistance. Rich with archival discoveries as well as startling, de-familiarizing analyses of well-known texts, The Captive Stage signals the arrival of a major new voice in theatre history and critical race studies."
--Robin Bernstein, Harvard University

--Robin Bernstein, Harvard University
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About Jr. Douglas A. Jones

Douglas A. Jones, Jr is Assistant Professor of English, Rutgers University, USA.
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