Book Reviews Transformable Race: Surprising Metamorphoses in the Literature of Early America katy l. chiles New York: Oxford University Press, 2014 315 pp. The use of the word race to indicate biological difference didn't exist in the eighteenth century, when elite, middling, and subaltern classes all spoke of human difference instead of race and when the term could denote a claim about kinship on anything from a species to a political level. The fact that race signified so differently in the eighteenth century than it did later (including now) has led a number of scholars, including Roxann Wheeler (The Complexion of Race) and Ezra Tawil (The Making of Racial Sentiment), to avoid using the term in analyses of the eighteenth century. Katy L. Chiles's learned study argues for the importance of reclaiming race for eighteenth-century studies. She shows that writers as different as Phillis Wheatley, Samuel Stanhope Smith, and Timothy Dwight sometimes did use the term to designate human difference, making clear that in the eighteenth-century moment when the modern biopolitical account of race was emerging, it was sometimes being used in a roughly modern way. In reclaiming a concept that hovers between the anachronistic and the apposite,
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jun 21, 2015
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