Oct 25 2008

Delbourgo’s Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America

by at 12:01 am under Uncategorized

So I picked up Delbourgo’s A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America. I must say, this book did not dissapoint! I’ve read the introduction thus far and am half way through Chapter 4, “Electrical Politics and Political Electricity.” In this chapter, Delbourgo does a great job of illustrating how the electrical metaphor is appropriated during the American Revolution. I’m really excited about all of this because none of the criticism I’ve read thus far on slavery and electricity have made this connection. Yes, they’ve talked about how the electrical metaphor was utilized by abolitionists, but they never ground the metaphor in its American Revolutionary past. While acknolwedging the electrical metaphor in abolitionist texts is a great first step, tracing back the electrical metaphor to the American Revolution is, I think, key. By tapping into a metaphor that is associated with the war for independence and utilizing it in an abolitionist context, the slave and the American Patriot are clearly equated which is something Maria Stewart does outright. Stewart asserts that black souls, “are fired with the same love of liberty and independce with which your souls are fired” (40).  Stewart sounds very much like the numerous examples Delgaudo gives of American patriot’s souls being fired by the revolution. In my paper, in order to avoid  seeming like I’m not trying to force an electric metaphor because I want to see it’s there in Stewart’s text, I’ll have to first give the examples of the way the electric metaphor was associated with the American Revolution (the quotes by John Adams, and a number of others come to mind). The similarities between the Revolutionary texts and Maria Stewarts will be, I think–I hope–undeniable. Note to self: copy these early American quotes from Chapter 4 into blog at some point during the week so I have them nice and handy.

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