2/12 — Anti-Tom Texts (1)

    It didn't take long for the defenders of slavery, or at least of the status quo, to recognize the disruptive potential of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe and her book were directly attacked in reviews, editorials and articles, but it was also recognized that this particular fire would have to be fought with fire -- i.e. that novels were needed to respond to Stowe's novel. See these two editorials, in the PENNSYLVANIAN and the SOUTHERN PRESS (for this second piece, just read the first three paragraphs; we'll get to Aunt Phillis' Cabin in a second).
    Between the publication of
Uncle Tom and the start of the Civil War, about two dozen "anti-Tom" novels were written. This week we'll look at selections from 8 of them. All the novels for today's class were written by women.

  • SONG
        At least one of the score or so of songs written in the early 1850s about or for Uncle Tom's Cabin was this pro-slavery attack on Stowe called "Aunt Harriet Beecha Stowe" (1853). It was clearly written for the minstrel stage, and sung in Baltimore, which was a slave-holding city. I don't know how widely performed elsewhere it was.

        Many of the "anti-Tom" novels were illustrated, an indication of the amount of capital apologists for slavery were prepared to invest in the attempt to contest Stowe's novel by providing alternative representations of slavery or alternative social evils to target. Take at least a quick look at all the "Before 1865" images at this link.

  • Aunt Phillis' Cabin
        This was the best-selling of the "anti-Tom" fictions. I want you to read about 80 pages from it, in the following chapters: "Preface," Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Chapters 9-11, 26, and "Concluding Remarks."

  • OPTIONAL: If you'd like a sense of how these replies to Stowe were in their turn discussed, here's a sampling of notices and reviews of Eastman's book (the New Englander piece is long, but because it includes a number of other texts in its discussion, including Uncle Tom's Cabin, it provides one version of the larger discourse context):
        Bookseller's Ad in Richmond Dispatch (August 1852)
  •     Liberator (October 1852)
        Dover Morning Star (October 1852)
        Independent (October 1852)
        New Englander (November 1852)

  • The North and the South
        Just read Chapter 1, "Introduction" (15 pages).

  • Anti-Fanaticism
        Read Chapters 2 and 20 (18 pages).

  • The Ebony Idol
        Read Chapters 7, 15 and 20 (40 pages).

  • Ellen
        Read Chapters 1, 5, 9, 15, 17, 19-22, 28, 33 and 37 (50 pages).