I’m taking a course this semester, American Studies 188: Slavery’s Optic Glass. The discussion so far has considered the American slave trade, and its significance and impacts on American literature for centuries thereafter.
In the class, I think of the sea as its own governess, its own power entity and nation-state. Prof. Clytus commented how “once we’re off terra firma, we gain perspective”. When applied to the American slave trade, and the micro-economies and micro-societies bred on the slave ships (among the captains/ Europeans), the water takes on a life of its own, commanding respect. It’s a perfect example of art as process.
I’ve included some paintings by J.M.W. Turner. He manages to encapsulate the all-encompassing power and hopelessness of the sea, a body without memory, without pattern.
J.M.W Turner’s The Slave Ship, 1840