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Democracy's SpectacleSovereignty and Public Life in Antebellum American Writing$
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Jennifer Greiman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230990

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823230990.001.0001

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/ “The Hangman's Accomplice”: Spectacle and Complicity in Lydia Maria Child's New York

/ “The Hangman's Accomplice”: Spectacle and Complicity in Lydia Maria Child's New York

(p.121) 3 / “The Hangman's Accomplice”: Spectacle and Complicity in Lydia Maria Child's New York
Democracy's Spectacle

Jennifer Greiman

Fordham University Press

Lydia Maria Child's reminiscences of the 1830s had been triggered, she explained, not by any signs of renewed violence against abolitionists, but by the sound of a katydid as she wandered one evening in Brooklyn. Like Beaumont, Child sees in the anti-abolitionist rioting of the 1830s “images of the French Revolution” with its alternating cycles of terror and reaction. As she describes the tense audience at one of Thompson's lectures, she indulges in some predictable fears about the working-class origins of the Revolutionary crowd. Child roots the melancholy of the democratic subject in an experience of spectacle that exposes the entanglement of life and death in the public sphere. But where Tocqueville holds up “equality” as the receding object on which all eyes fix, generating the constant movement that keeps democracy's show on the road, Child insists on a different view.

Keywords:   Lydia Maria Child, anti-abolitionist, riot, equality, Revolutionary crowd

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