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Literary Inventions of Black Interiority, Criminal Desires and Secrecy in the Romantic Era Novel Open Access

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Anglophone, Protestant literary traditions figure heavily in the historicization of the novel and the central role privacy plays in the narrativization of concealment. Protestantism’s focus on piety through individual self-reflection has been credited as the catalyst for the nineteenth-century inward turn of the novel and its invention of private life and the private individual. Within this Protestant-influenced novel, privacy constitutes one’s political legitimacy and is a concept that has also dominated how literature within and beyond the Anglosphere has imagined the interior qualities that constitute race and racial difference.A different tradition, influenced by a Catholic context that sees black self-identity and interiorities as inherently insurgent in their inscrutability, opacity, and secrecy, subverts this Protestant literary tradition. While the literary invention of interiority during the inward turn of the novel depends on evolution of public and private divisions, this dissertation will examine how several Catholic-influenced novels posit that the invention of black interiority depends on secrecy not only as disruptive but also as generative, where the language and specter of black humanity emerge as racialized threat after the Haitian Revolution and as a means of undermining the racism and patriarchalism within privacy and the inadequacy of the fixed ideals it creates.

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