Uncle Tom's Cabins
The Transnational History of America's Most Mutable Book
Explores the many ways this mid-nineteenth-century U.S. bestseller functions as world literature and enduring icon
As Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin traveled around the world, it was molded by the imaginations and needs of international audiences. For over 150 years it has been coopted for a dazzling array of causes far from what its author envisioned. This book tells thirteen variants of Uncle Tom’s journey, explicating the novel’s significance for Canadian abolitionists and the Liberian political elite that constituted the runaway characters’ landing points; nineteenth-century French theatergoers; liberal Cuban, Romanian, and Spanish intellectuals and social reformers; Dutch colonizers and Filipino nationalists in Southeast Asia; Eastern European Cold War communists; Muslim readers and spectators in the Middle East; Brazilian television audiences; and twentieth-century German holidaymakers.
Throughout these encounters, Stowe’s story of American slavery serves as a paradigm for understanding oppression, selectively and strategically refracting the African American slave onto other iconic victims and freedom fighters. The book brings together performance historians, literary critics, and media theorists to demonstrate how the myriad cultural and political effects of Stowe’s enduring story has transformed it into a global metanarrative with national, regional, and local specificity.
“Sweeping in its scope and imaginative in its approach, this collection challenges contemporary scholars to revisit one of the most influential works in the American canon and to recognize that mere national borders never have and never can curtail the flow of ideas and culture. The essays illuminate the ways that even seemingly innocuous adaptations or translations shaped the resonance of Uncle Tom's Cabin for audiences around the world. The study should be a model for how to approach the impact of translation and adaptation across time and in different cultural contexts.”
—Heather S. Nathans, Tufts University
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