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Bloody Romanticism: Spectacular Violence and the Politics of by Ian Haywood (auth.)

By Ian Haywood (auth.)

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Extra resources for Bloody Romanticism: Spectacular Violence and the Politics of Representation, 1776–1832

Example text

Indeed, at one point in his ‘interesting’ story he becomes a slave trader himself, apparently without embarrassment. But it is through the appropriation of radical political discourse that he can most effectively sum up the systemic evils of slavery, and appeal to a wide spectrum of abolitionist readers. To begin with, slavery ‘violates the first natural right of mankind, equality and independency’. As Hegel was to show, the tyranny of slavery also corrupts the master, who is transformed for Equiano into a figure of ‘fraud, rapine, and cruelty’.

Oh! twill be pleasant when we see them mourn View with delight each agonizing grin, When melted wax is dropp’d upon their skin. (SAE, 4: 35, original emphasis) Slavery and Violence 23 Another footnote explains that the ‘leisurely’ application of hot wax to gaping wounds was a common form of torture in the plantations (SAE, 4: 56). But Adoma’s imagination looks ahead to the third stage of the cycle of violence, the terrible punishment of the gibbet. A footnote points out that some ‘miserable sufferers’ of the gibbet can survive for as long as a week.

Possibly motivated by the desire to exorcise the demons of his previous career, Newton depicts an excessively sadistic regime on board the ship. The captain administers punishments such as floggings and the use of the thumbscrew, but his manner of executing slaves is the key detail, as he ‘studied, with no small attention, how to make death as excruciating to them as possible. For my reader’s sake, I suppress the recital of particulars’ (SAE, 2: 93). This reticence, a component of hyperbolic realism’s dramatic repertoire of rhetorical effects, does not prevent Newton squeezing out one further ‘particular’ in which a sailor throws a slave’s baby overboard to stop it crying (SAE, 2: 94).

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