‘The Poetics of Radical Abolitionism: Ann Yearsley’s Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade’

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-105
JournalTulsa Studies in Women’s Literature
Volume34
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
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Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article re-examines Ann Yearsley’s Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade (1788) and argues that excessive attention to the relationship between Yearsley and her former patron Hannah More has obscured the extent to which Yearsley was working independently by 1788, albeit influenced by the burgeoning literature of antislavery. The article shows how interest in the More-Yearsley rivalry has been expressed in critical literature and biography from the 1930s to the present day, generally in the form of compare-and-contrast close readings of both poems in which Yearsley’s poetic vision is subordinated to More’s. It then provides a close reading of Yearsley’s poem to show how it is in dialogue with a range of antislavery verse, including poems by Thomas Chatterton, John Bicknell and Thomas Day, William Cowper, and William Roscoe. The article concludes with an assessment of More’s radical abolitionism and the suggestion that Yearsley’s influence, as well as her influences, be the subject of future study.

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