Abstract

#BlackLivesMatter: The Black Atlantic Matters

My aim is to consider the ways in which the “black Atlantic” and its combined focus on music and literature redefine the field of Romanticism and how this redefinition translates into the classroom. One pedagogical approach is to examine how Wheatley maps time, space, and memory through meter. Through attention Wheatley’s use of syncopation, it’s possible to see how her verse subverts the colonialist notion of mapping, accounting for and claiming ownership of internal and external space as well as rhythmical spaces of lines of poetry and typography. Her versified maps have spaces and places that are unaccounted for, that are merely implied and must be imagined, like a pulse that is felt but not heard. Such interstitial spaces are represented in her poetry by syncopation’s silences, omissions, ambiguities, ironies, reversals, (un)stressed syllables, and the music theory surrounding “on beats” and “off beats.” "On Imagination" and "On Being Brought from Africa to America" metaphorically re-plot the coordinates of her memory of the middle passage, as a metrically mapped journey from earth to heaven. Before Wordsworth and Coleridge, Wheatley’s autobiographical pentameter testified to the spiritually and politically transformative power of the Imag-I-Nation(s), remapping national, spiritual, emotional, racial, and spatial coordinates to challenge the understanding of the Enlightenment’s legacy in her day as well as the present.