Sari Altschuler “‘Picture it all, Darley’: Race Politics and the Media History of George Lippard’s The Quaker City” (pp. 65–101)
This essay adresses two related questions. First, how did George Lippard’s The Quaker City develop from a multimedia story told through newspaper conventions, illustration, and two plays into the novel that appeared in May 1845? And second, how did Lippard’s white-seduction narrative come to pivot around the nightmare of an ambiguously raced Devil-Bug? Joining these questions of form and content, I argue that the media history of The Quaker City is inextricable from its history of race. In the wake of the almost riot around the mid-serialization of his Philadelphia play, Lippard moved away from fictionalizing current events toward the “grotesque-sublime” through a broader critique of Philadelphia less open to charges of libel. This shift took place through the transformation of Devil-Bug, a character Lippard rapidly developed in the middle installments until he was complex enough to carry the new story. Turning the once-black Devil-Bug into his protagonist, however, required character developments that necessarily complicated the story’s representation of race, a process that occurred concurrently with events related to the work that highlighted the systemic oppression of African Americans. In winter 1844, troubles with two stage productions and his illustrator highlighted the problems of representing race. After a several-month hiatus, Lippard published new installments vituperously condemning the representational limits of these nonprose forms and turned to prose to develop his antislavery position through Devil-Bug. As a result of these confluent developments, The Quaker City became an antislavery text through the process of opening Devil-Bug’s character up to its own hybridity and interiority.