Newman, “Free Soil and the Abolitionist Forests of Frederick Douglass’s The Heroic Slave”

As you read Lance Newman’s “Free Soil and the Abolitionist Forests” and Cristin Ellis’s “Amoral Abolitionism,” take careful notes on the following questions (you do not have to submit answers to these).

Newman, “Free Soil and the Abolitionist Forests of Frederick Douglass’s The Heroic Slave

Part I

1) According to Newman, how does Douglass’s rhetorical strategy change during the 1850s? His goal, of course, is to abolish slavery–but what kind of arguments does he start making to achieve this goal? And what audience is Douglass trying to appeal to?

2) A key term in this essay is “republican pastoralism,” first introduced on p. 128. At this point in the essay, what do you think this term means?

3) According to Newman, why is Douglass’s example of republican pastoralism significant?

Part II

4) Why does Douglass employ so much anti-pastoral imagery in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

5) What, according to Newman, was the problem with the abolitionist tactics of William Lloyd Garrison? (p. 130-131)

6) How does Douglass’s Narrative employ anti-pastoral imagery? Summarize at least three examples and describe the rhetorical effect of each example. (p 131-132)

Part III

7) How does Douglass’s portayal of nature change in his novella The Heroic Slave? (p. 134)

8) How does Douglass’s portrayal of churches differ from Apess’s in A Son of the Forest? (p. 135)

9) What are the key features of Douglass’s “republican pastoralism”? Summarize at least three examples and describe how they differ from the anti-pastoral examples you described earlier (p 1350-137)

Part IV

10) How did Douglass’s experience in Britain help inspire the changes in his rhetorical strategies? (p. 137-139)

11) What is the Free Soil Party and what do they stand for? Who makes up this political party? How does the Free Soil movement influence Douglass? (139-143)

Part V

12) How do Douglass’s rhetorical strategies, especially his republican pastoralism, influence My Bondage, My Freedom? (p. 145-147)

Cristin Ellis, “Amoral Abolitionism: Frederick Douglass and the Environmental Case Against Slavery”


1) How do modern readers usually interpret Douglass’s abolitionist rhetoric? (p. 275-276)

2) According to Ellis, why is Douglass’s utilitarian, sustainability-focused antislavery argument in My Bondage, My Freedom significant for modern ecocritics? (p. 276-278)

The Soil Crisis and Antislavery’s Environmental Imaginaries

3) Why was soil exhaustion in the South such a problem? Or in other words, why were people concerned about it? (p. 278-280)

4) How did sentimental abolitionists interpret the causes of soil exhaustion in the South? (p. 280)

5) How did the newly formed Republican Party interpret the causes of soil exhaustion? (280-281)

6) How did Southern agricultural experts interpret the causes of soil exhaustion? (p. 281-282)

Landscapes of Protest in My Bondage and My Freedom

7) How have previous critics interpreted Douglass’s descriptions of nature in My Bondage, My Freedom? How are these arguments different from the one Ellis is making? (p. 283-284)

8) According to Ellis, how does Douglass’s reject pastoral tropes in his portrait of Grandmother Betsey? (p. 285-287)

9) According to Ellis, how does Douglass reject pastoral tropes in his description of the Lloyd plantation? (p. 287-288)

10) According to Ellis, what does nature mean to Douglass? (p. 288-289)

11) According to Ellis, how does Douglass’s description of New Bedford also reject pastoral tropes? (p. 289-291)

Ecological Pragmatism: Telling Risk from Wrong

12) According to Ellis, why does Douglass move from pastoral/moral arguments to economic and ecological arguments in the 1850s? (p. 291-292)

13) In the context of the 1840s and 1850s, how does Douglass’s move away from moral arguments against slavery suit his rhetorical situation? (p. 292-293)

14) According to Ellis, how can Douglass’s example of ecological anti-slavery argument serve as a useful model for modern ecocritics and environmental activists? (p. 293-296)

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