REVIEWS issues that does not come to a climax with Jefferson.) Perhaps this is inevitable. The slavery metaphor, after all, was a ``crucial and fluid concept . . . applied to a wide variety of events and values and was constantly being defined and redefined'' (xi). Still, by the end of the book, with my thoughts provoked but my head spinning, I was put less in mind of Jefferson and more of that great lyricist, Katy Perry: ``You're yes then you're no/ You're in then you're out/ You're up then you're down.'' Like any important concept, the slavery metaphor was indeed complex and contradictory, fluid and malleable, ambiguous and multivalent, defined and redefined. That language always gets heads nodding in seminar rooms, needless to say, but as scholarly argument (or as song lyric for that matter), it leaves me wanting more. I realize this is probably an unpopular position among historians rightly wary of simplification, or scholars appropriately imbued with postmodern instincts, but it seems to me that authors should not just elaborate the complex and contradictory nature of things, but should also try to impart, however imperfectly or even wrongly, greater coherence to the fascinating ideas they
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Oct 22, 2012
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