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The Political PoetessVictorian Femininity, Race, and the Legacy of Separate Spheres$
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Tricia Lootens

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691170312

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691170312.001.0001

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Harper’s Hearts: “Home Is Never Natural or Safe”

Harper’s Hearts: “Home Is Never Natural or Safe”

(p.180) Chapter Six Harper’s Hearts: “Home Is Never Natural or Safe”
The Political Poetess

Tricia Lootens

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, from her early invocation of the specter of the Poetess on the auction block to her late replacement of earlier “heart” tropes with the figure of Harriet Tubman's bruised hands, deploys Poetess performance as a powerful, if ultimately insufficient, resource for articulating poetic visions of globally aware, politically ambitious African American intellectual culture. Building on Harper's own self-depiction as “our most celebrated poetess and oratrix,” the chapter considers the strenuousness and virtuosity of her engagements with “separate spheres.” It also explores how, through the “click of the cliché,” Harper corporealizes her narrator Chloe Fleet's well-known challenges to slaveholding domesticity. Finally, it analyzes two poems that seek to break the bounds of haunted, suspended spheres: “Do Not Cheer, Men are Dying” and “The Vision of the Czar of Russia.”

Keywords:   Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Poetess, Poetess performance, The Vision of the Czar of Russia, poems, Harriet Tubman

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