" heProgressoftheHeatWithin": T TheWestIndies,YellowFever, andCitizenshipinWilliamWells Brown'sClotel by Kelly Wisecup During certain seasons of the year, all tropical climates are subject to epidemics of a most destructive nature. The inhabitants of New Orleans look with as much certainty for the appearance of the yellow-fever, smallpox, or cholera, in the hot-season, as the Londoner does for fog in the month of November. --William Wells Brown, Clotel With the above statement in his 1853 novel Clotel, William Wells Brown begins his description of the New Orleans yellow fever epidemic that fractures the Morton family and sends another generation of Thomas Jefferson's descendents to the auction block. The statement is followed by a brief description of the yellow fever epidemic and its effects upon the human and social body before Brown picks up his narrative about Clotel, her family, and the social effects of racial amalgamation. This passage, Brown's geopolitical positioning of the epidemic, and his literary-historical sources for its representation, are worth a second look. In a passage unique to the 1853 novel, Brown compares New Orleans' epidemics to London's fogs, suggesting that epidemics in the U.S. South are similar to the rainy environment which defines London, and, by extension, Londoners.
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 12, 2009
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