Harriet Martineau’s Exceptional American Narratives: Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and the "Redemption Of Your National Soul"

Ted Hovet


This essay argues for British writer and reformer Harriet Martineau’s importance to mid-nineteenth century American cultural and literary history. Martineau maintained long and deep relationships with key American figures during this period, especially those surrounding the abolitionist movement. Using her writing about John Brown and Harriet Beecher Stowe as a catalyst, I will analyze Martineau’s importance to this period, especially her influence on anti-slavery writing and her efforts to define a particular kind of American exceptionalism. Martineau’s commentary on Stowe and Brown reveals the key elements of her methods as an abolitionist writer and serves as an example of how she encouraged her readers on both sides of the Atlantic to come to a particular understanding of America itself. My analysis of this commentary can serve as a model for additional consideration of Martineau’s valuable contributions to American studies.

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American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

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