Friendship, Slavery and the Politics of Pity, Including a Visit from Phillis Wheatley

Carol Watts

in The Cultural Work of Empire

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625642
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671717 | DOI:
Friendship, Slavery and the Politics of Pity, Including a Visit from Phillis Wheatley

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This chapter describes the friendship, concentrating on the sentimentalism of the period and its relation to a notion of ‘imperial recoil’. It also evaluates the place of friendship in the poetics of Phillis Wheatley and the state imagining of Sarah Scott. The protean vocabulary of friendship enables a continual process of political re-translation, state imagining. The rational facility of James Buchanan's ideal community was important to the sociable commerce of the whole. The productive nature of women's friendship as a state imagining is a secret disclosed in Scott's work, where it enters into discourse staged as a chance discovery, witnessed by male tourists in the seclusion of provincial retreat. The politics of pity provided an almost phantasmatic extension of the ideal friendship. Wheatley's own engagement with the constitution of community, sanctioned by divine ‘Friendship’, indicates the potential for its radical remaking against the grain of oppressive authority.

Keywords: friendship; politics of pity; Phillis Wheatley; state imagining; Sarah Scott; poetics; James Buchanan

Chapter.  21508 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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