Who Owns Uncle Tom’s Cabin? On Religion, Property, and Personhood


Who Owns Uncle Tom’s Cabin? On Religion, Property, and Personhood

April 15, 2014 / 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm / Add to Google
1798 Scenic Avenue,

Peter Schneck, Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Osnabrück, Germany

This talk examines the religious and legal imaginaries underpinning Harriet Beecher Stowe’s <em>Uncle Tom’s Cabin</em> (1852). The best-selling novel “by the little woman who started the [Civil] war,” as Abraham Lincoln famously put it, Stowe’s concept of property and personhood was arguably shaped by Protestant notions of (legal, cultural) propriety. Through an approach informed by G. W. F. Hegel’s insights on religion, property and the dialectics of master-slave, this lecture attempts a provocative re-reading of Stowe’s iconic anti-slavery text, particularly in light of its entanglement in the conflicts surrounding notions of literary and cultural property in 19th-century America.

With responses by Leti Volpp, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley and Johannes Voelz, Associate Professor of American Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany.

Peter Schneck received his PhD from the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin, and presently holds the professorship for American Literature and Culture at the University of Osnabrück, where he directs the Osnabrück Summer Institute on the Cultural Study of the Law (OSI). In addition to his chair in Osnabrück, he has taught at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, and was recently a visiting research fellow at the University of California, Irvine. He has published widely on American literature, visual and legal culture, including the recent <em>Rhetoric and Evidence: Legal Conflict and Literary Representation in U.S American Culture</em>. As the former president of the German Association for American Studies, he has lectured throughout Europe and the United States on topics that range from multiculturalism and indigenous literatures in Canada, to Don DeLillo and postmodern spirituality, to theories of visual culture and mediatization. He is also co-editor of <em>Philologie im Netz</em>, one of Germany’s oldest online journals for humanities scholarship.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Arts, Religion, and Education, Graduate Theological Union and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.