The Traumatic Colonel

The Traumatic Colonel : The Founding Fathers, Slavery, and the Phantasmatic Aaron Burr

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American political fantasy, the Founding Fathers loom large, at once historical

and mythical figures. In The Traumatic Colonel, Michael J. Drexler and

Ed White examine the Founders as imaginative fictions, characters in the

specifically literary sense, whose significance emerged from narrative elements

clustered around them. From the revolutionary era through the 1790s, the Founders

took shape as a significant cultural system for thinking about politics, race,

and sexuality. Yet after 1800, amid the pressures of the Louisiana Purchase and

the Haitian Revolution, this system could no longer accommodate the deep

anxieties about the United States as a slave nation.


and White assert that the most emblematic of the political tensions of the time

is the figure of Aaron Burr, whose rise and fall were detailed in the

literature of his time: his electoral tie with Thomas Jefferson in 1800,

the accusations of seduction, the notorious duel with Alexander Hamilton, his

machinations as the schemer of a breakaway empire, and his spectacular treason

trial. The authors venture a psychoanalytically-informed exploration of post-revolutionary

America to suggest that the figure of "Burr" was fundamentally a displaced

fantasy for addressing the Haitian Revolution. Drexler and White expose how the

historical and literary fictions of the nation's founding served to repress the

larger issue of the slave system and uncover the Burr myth as the crux of that

repression. Exploring early American novels, such as the works of Charles

Brockden Brown and Tabitha Gilman Tenney, as well as the pamphlets, polemics,

tracts, and biographies of the early republican period, the authors speculate

that this flourishing of political writing illuminates the notorious gap in

U.S. literary history between 1800 and 1820.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 20.32mm | 363g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 1479842532
  • 9781479842537
  • 3,460,382

Table of contents

Contents Acknowledgments xi Burrology-Extracts xiii Introduction 1 1 The Semiotics of the Founders 15 2 Hors Monde, or the Fantasy Structure of Republicanism 42 3 Female Quixotism and the Fantasy of Region 74 4 Burr's Formation, 1800-1804 102 5 Burr's Deployment, 1804-1807 135 Conclusion 168 Notes 181 Index 201 About the Authors 207
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Review quote

The Traumatic Colonelis a significant and unique contribution to early US studies, deftly synthesizing the recent historiography on the political economy of slavery in the construction of the US hemispheric empire. Innovative and original, White and Drexler locate Aaron Burr as the symbolic pivot for the representations that emerge politically around the repression of slavery. -- Dana Nelson,author of Bad for Democracy By considering how both neglected and familiar literary materials 'propose an Africanist presence as the object cause of desire,' White and Drexler expand existing notions of the contours of early American studies. In so doing, they provocatively decode the ways in which the 'Founders' functioned as a system of structuring fictions for the nascent Republic. The Traumatic Colonelis one of the most innovative interventions into our sense of early US cultural development in quite some time. It will have a major impact on the field, and profoundly shape work written in its wake. -- Duncan Faherty,author of Remodeling the Nation Studies of early America should be emboldened by Drexler and Whites attempt to approach questions of racial violence from such a refreshingly idiosyncratic angle. * American Historical Review *
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About Michael J. Drexler

Michael J. Drexler is Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He is editor of Leonora Sansay's Secret History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo and Laura and co-editor of Haiti and the Early US: Histories, Textualities, Geographies. Ed White is Pierce Butler Associate Professor of American literature at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is the author of The Backcountry and the City: Colonization and Conflict in Early America, co-editor, with Michael J. Drexler, of Beyond Douglass: Essays in Early African-American Literature, and editor of Hugh Henry Brackenridge's Modern Chivalry.
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