Forg[ing] chains for others : Hannah More's poetics and rhetoric of control

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2012-05

Authors

Thaler, Joanna Leigh

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Abstract

While scholars have carefully and rightly noted the profound influence that More’s abolitionist writings had on both the abolition movement and the developing women’s rights movement, they omit what is an essential examination of her poetics, particularly the self-conscious poetic form that she develops in her poem, “Slavery, A Poem” (1788). In conjunction with noting the rhetorical and textual devices that More implements in “Slavery” to illustrate the art of self-conscious poetics, this paper explores these same devices in a later satirical essay of More’s entitled Hints towards forming a Bill for the Abolition of the White Female Slave Trade, in the Cities of London and Westminster (1804), arguing that, by comparing the rhetorical points of overlap in these two pieces, we can identify that More’s contribution to her contemporary literary culture transcended mere female participation and publication. More importantly, through “Slavery” and Hints, More develops a unique rhetoric – a poetics of control – with which to discuss the physical constraints of slavery, the trope of the individual versus the collective, and the essential poetic and rhetorical practice of blending authorial creativity with conventional constraint.

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