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Slavery and the Culture of Taste

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"It is difficult to think of a single work that more clearly and carefully reveals the inextricable intertwining of the habits and social practices of the British elite in the drawing rooms of London with the harsh brutalities of Britain's central involvement in the creation and maintenance of the slave trade in the West Indies and West Africa. This book is full of stunning insights and is a pleasure to read. It is an original contribution to the study of the Enlightenment."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Tradition and the Black Atlantic and The Trials of Phillis Wheatley

"This ambitious, intelligent, and far-reaching book argues that selfhood and the culture of taste were constituted by slavery. It is, as far as I know, the first in-depth look at slave performance in relation to the British culture of taste and refinement, and will, without a doubt, transform our understanding of the eighteenth century."--Saidiya Hartman, author of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

"This book cogently argues for the complexities between the cultures of politeness in eighteenth-century English culture and the practices of slave capitalism. Connecting images of slavery with archival sources from the eighteenth century as well as with the writings of modern and contemporary theorists and philosophers, Gikandi's work will interest scholars of eighteenth-century studies, the Black Atlantic, British cultural and literary history, and colonial/postcolonial studies, as well as historians of slavery and the slave trade."--Philip Gould, Brown University

"This book explores with great insight the relations between taste--a social, aesthetic, and regulatory standard, crafted by traditional elites--and the practices of violence and exploitation that characterized slavery in the eighteenth century. Leading the reader through terrains of connection and difference that stretch across oceans and periods, this book is a pleasure to read and ponder."--Kathleen Wilson, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Synopsis:

It would be easy to assume that, in the eighteenth century, slavery and the culture of taste--the world of politeness, manners, and aesthetics--existed as separate and unequal domains, unrelated in the spheres of social life. But to the contrary, Slavery and the Culture of Taste demonstrates that these two areas of modernity were surprisingly entwined. Ranging across Britain, the antebellum South, and the West Indies, and examining vast archives, including portraits, period paintings, personal narratives, and diaries, Simon Gikandi illustrates how the violence and ugliness of enslavement actually shaped theories of taste, notions of beauty, and practices of high culture, and how slavery's impurity informed and haunted the rarified customs of the time.

Gikandi focuses on the ways that the enslavement of Africans and the profits derived from this exploitation enabled the moment of taste in European--mainly British--life, leading to a transformation of bourgeois ideas regarding freedom and selfhood. He explores how these connections played out in the immense fortunes made in the West Indies sugar colonies, supporting the lavish lives of English barons and altering the ideals that defined middle-class subjects. Discussing how the ownership of slaves turned the American planter class into a new aristocracy, Gikandi engages with the slaves' own response to the strange interplay of modern notions of freedom and the realities of bondage, and he emphasizes the aesthetic and cultural processes developed by slaves to create spaces of freedom outside the regimen of enforced labor and truncated leisure.

Through a close look at the eighteenth century's many remarkable documents and artworks, Slavery and the Culture of Taste sets forth the tensions and contradictions entangling a brutal practice and the distinctions of civility.

About the Author

Simon Gikandi is the Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University. His many books include "Writing in Limbo" and "Maps of Englishness."

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xvii
Chapter 1: Overture: Sensibility in the Age of Slavery 1
Chapter 2: Intersections: Taste, Slavery, and the Modern Self 50
Chapter 3: Unspeakable Events: Slavery and White Self-Fashioning 97
Chapter 4: Close Encounters: Taste and the Taint of Slavery 145
Chapter 5: "Popping Sorrow": Loss and the Transformation of Servitude 188
Chapter 6: The Ontology of Play: Mimicry and the Counterculture of Taste 233
Coda: Three Fragments 282
Notes 287
Bibliography 321
Index 353

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691160979
Author:
Gikandi, Simon
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
Literature: Primary Works and Letters
Subject:
British literature.
Subject:
Postcolonial Studies
Subject:
World History-England General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
73 halftones.
Pages:
392
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » England » General
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Slavery and the Culture of Taste New Trade Paper
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Product details 392 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691160979 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,

It would be easy to assume that, in the eighteenth century, slavery and the culture of taste--the world of politeness, manners, and aesthetics--existed as separate and unequal domains, unrelated in the spheres of social life. But to the contrary, Slavery and the Culture of Taste demonstrates that these two areas of modernity were surprisingly entwined. Ranging across Britain, the antebellum South, and the West Indies, and examining vast archives, including portraits, period paintings, personal narratives, and diaries, Simon Gikandi illustrates how the violence and ugliness of enslavement actually shaped theories of taste, notions of beauty, and practices of high culture, and how slavery's impurity informed and haunted the rarified customs of the time.

Gikandi focuses on the ways that the enslavement of Africans and the profits derived from this exploitation enabled the moment of taste in European--mainly British--life, leading to a transformation of bourgeois ideas regarding freedom and selfhood. He explores how these connections played out in the immense fortunes made in the West Indies sugar colonies, supporting the lavish lives of English barons and altering the ideals that defined middle-class subjects. Discussing how the ownership of slaves turned the American planter class into a new aristocracy, Gikandi engages with the slaves' own response to the strange interplay of modern notions of freedom and the realities of bondage, and he emphasizes the aesthetic and cultural processes developed by slaves to create spaces of freedom outside the regimen of enforced labor and truncated leisure.

Through a close look at the eighteenth century's many remarkable documents and artworks, Slavery and the Culture of Taste sets forth the tensions and contradictions entangling a brutal practice and the distinctions of civility.

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