/ “The Hangman's Accomplice”: Spectacle and Complicity in Lydia Maria Child's New York

Jennifer Greiman

in Democracy's Spectacle

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780823230990
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241156 | DOI:

Series: American Literatures Initiative

/ “The Hangman's Accomplice”: Spectacle and Complicity in Lydia Maria Child's New York

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Lydia Maria Child's reminiscences of the 1830s had been triggered, she explained, not by any signs of renewed violence against abolitionists, but by the sound of a katydid as she wandered one evening in Brooklyn. Like Beaumont, Child sees in the anti-abolitionist rioting of the 1830s “images of the French Revolution” with its alternating cycles of terror and reaction. As she describes the tense audience at one of Thompson's lectures, she indulges in some predictable fears about the working-class origins of the Revolutionary crowd. Child roots the melancholy of the democratic subject in an experience of spectacle that exposes the entanglement of life and death in the public sphere. But where Tocqueville holds up “equality” as the receding object on which all eyes fix, generating the constant movement that keeps democracy's show on the road, Child insists on a different view.

Keywords: Lydia Maria Child; anti-abolitionist; riot; equality; Revolutionary crowd

Chapter.  15706 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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