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Talking RevolutionEdward Rushton's Rebellious Poetics, 1782-1814$
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Franca Dellarosa

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381441

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381441.001.0001

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Envisioning the Unthinkable

Envisioning the Unthinkable

History, Agency, and the Haitian Revolution

(p.171) 6 Envisioning the Unthinkable
Talking Revolution

Franca Dellarosa

Liverpool University Press

This chapter investigates Edward Rushton’s poetic homage to the revolutionary uprisings in the Caribbean, i.e. the ballad ‘Toussaint to His Troops’ (1802?). It is argued that the poem anticipates C. L. R. James’s investment of the Haitian Revolution as ‘one of the great epics of revolutionary struggle and achievement’, in terms which at once embed the poem within, and distance it from, the mainstream poetic discourse of abolitionism. One intertextual reference is Hannah More’s celebrated Slavery: A Poem (1788). Both poems rely on the metaphorical identification of the Sun for Liberty, but in Rushton’s a shift in the poetic stance overturns the earlier poem’s rhetorical structure; black agency is conveyed through the performative speech act involving the General as addresser and the addressees of his speech, ‘his troops’. Form is also crucial in establishing the ideological distance separating Rushton’s construction from William Wordsworth’s sonnet ‘’To Toussaint’. Srinivas Aravamudan’s critical paradigm of tropicalization is used to contend that the rhetorical appropriation of Toussaint’s voice in Rushton’s poem realizes a paradoxical process of contestation of colonial domination: as the product of a marginal metropolitan subject, politically contiguous with the tropicopolitan ‘object of representation’, the poem warrants its transmutation into an ‘agent of resistance’.

Keywords:   Edward Rushton, Toussaint to His Troops, Haitian revolution, Hannah More, William Wordsworth, tropicalization

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