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The Victorian Artist: Artists' Lifewritings in Britain, ca. 1870-1910 (review)

The Victorian Artist: Artists' Lifewritings in Britain, ca. 1870-1910 (review) 04-Reviews_295-326 6/24/05 8:22 AM Page 305 Reviews 305 Americas,” the Robin Johns frequently disappear in the departures Sparks takes to provide his “microhistory” (5). The structure of the book certainly betrays this weakness: the Robin Johns do not really appear in the first two chapters, which comprise nearly half of the book, and they exit the narrative before Sparks concludes with his discussion of English abolitionism. This imbalance undoubtedly results from the basic challenge Sparks faces—name- ly, extrapolating full “voices” from a collection of letters that speak so little— but even in the chapters dealing directly with the Robin Johns’ odyssey, Sparks tends to use their own words as transparent documents of their expe- riences, not as expressions of the princes’ evolving self-consciousness, or as instances of performative self-presentation. After citing Gilroy, Sparks reit- erates finally that “[t]he princely Little Ephraim and the free-spirited Ancona help counter the tendency to reduce Africans who suffered the horrors of the slave trade to commodities and numbers,” but his book ultimately denies these Africans the centrality Gilroy’s own reconsideration of modernity demands (146). Recovering a history without recovering the Robin Johns’ lives, Sparks never really affords them the depth he promises. While http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

The Victorian Artist: Artists' Lifewritings in Britain, ca. 1870-1910 (review)

Biography , Volume 28 (2) – Aug 3, 2005

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

04-Reviews_295-326 6/24/05 8:22 AM Page 305 Reviews 305 Americas,” the Robin Johns frequently disappear in the departures Sparks takes to provide his “microhistory” (5). The structure of the book certainly betrays this weakness: the Robin Johns do not really appear in the first two chapters, which comprise nearly half of the book, and they exit the narrative before Sparks concludes with his discussion of English abolitionism. This imbalance undoubtedly results from the basic challenge Sparks faces—name- ly, extrapolating full “voices” from a collection of letters that speak so little— but even in the chapters dealing directly with the Robin Johns’ odyssey, Sparks tends to use their own words as transparent documents of their expe- riences, not as expressions of the princes’ evolving self-consciousness, or as instances of performative self-presentation. After citing Gilroy, Sparks reit- erates finally that “[t]he princely Little Ephraim and the free-spirited Ancona help counter the tendency to reduce Africans who suffered the horrors of the slave trade to commodities and numbers,” but his book ultimately denies these Africans the centrality Gilroy’s own reconsideration of modernity demands (146). Recovering a history without recovering the Robin Johns’ lives, Sparks never really affords them the depth he promises. While

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Aug 3, 2005

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