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Long Live Life: A Biopolitical Examination of Aphra Behn’s Royalism in Oroonoko

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dc.contributor.advisor Parris, Benjamin Shen, Jane 2017-08-31T11:58:51Z 2017-08-31T11:58:51Z 2017
dc.description.abstract With the work of Foucault and Aphra Behn’s critics in mind, I aim to construct a biopolitical analysis that clarifies Behn’s contradictory depictions of slavery in Oroonoko and shows how Behn’s Royalist views inflect her understanding of the power over biological life in connection to sovereignty. I hope to show that Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko does not protest against the institutions of slavery and colonialism per se, but rather critiques the brutal techniques that their English participants implemented in their increased distance from sovereign rule. While her view can be read as an implicit protest of Parliament’s seizure of power from the English monarchy during the Civil War, this point risks obscuring what is most insightful and disturbing about Behn’s work––namely, its reflection of her belief of the nobility’s biological superiority over the emerging bourgeoisie. This is evident in Oroonoko’s depictions of slavery and colonialism, through which Behn casts a critical eye on the emergence of biopolitical apparatuses that discipline and control life. By examining the titular character’s responses to slavery and colonialism amongst his fellow Coramantien people, the Surinam Natives, and the English colonists through a biopolitical lens, it is clear that Behn’s Oroonoko does not portray slavery and colonialism as inherently problematic institutions. Rather, these institutions become problematic for the rule of the British Empire precisely because they provide the bourgeoisie with an authority over populations and peoples that in Behn’s opinion can only be properly wielded by the sovereign.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Behn, Aphra, 1640-1689. Oroonoko
dc.subject.lcsh Behn, Aphra, 1640-1689 -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.subject.lcsh Slavery in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Royalists in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Biopolitics
dc.title Long Live Life: A Biopolitical Examination of Aphra Behn’s Royalism in Oroonoko
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Tri-College users only

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