This paper traces British Romantic writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s shifting attitudes toward slavery and the slave trade from the 1790s to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, as reflective and symptomatic of larger crosscurrents in abolitionist and civilizing rhetoric during an era of British imperial expansion. Coleridge begins his lecturing and publishing career as a radical abolitionist, expressed in writings such as “Greek Ode on the Slave Trade” (1792) and the essay “On the Slave Trade” (1796). Shortly after the Slave Trade Act of 1807, his review of Thomas Clarkson’s The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade reveals an undertone of paternalism toward the subjugated peoples; in his later years, as evidenced in Table Talk and On the Constitution of Church and State (1829), Coleridge reorients himself as a conservative gradualist whose primary concern was the moral and religious civilizing of slaves. I propose to situate Coleridge’s drastic changes in outlook within the rhetoric and discourses of national identity and nation-building, scrutinizing the ways in which abolitionist and reformist views contributed to the idea of a morally superior yet hierarchically stable British Empire. The paper will contribute toward an understanding of the literary and historical contexts of slavery and abolitionism in the nineteenth century.
Jerry Chia-Je Weng, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
About the Presenter(s)
Dr Jerry Chia-Je Weng is a University Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer at National Taiwan University in Taiwan
See this presentation on the full schedule – Saturday Schedule