Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 72 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Glyne Griffith

Committee Members

Michael K Hill


Adam Smith, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Rousseau, The Enlightenment, Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Enlightenment, Racism, Gothic fiction (Literary genre), American, Slave trade

Subject Categories

American Literature | Arts and Humanities | Philosophy


The Enlightenment has been thought of as the Age of Reason: the birth of the individual, the rise of print culture, the beginning of the middle class, and an exponential growth in the sciences. The Enlightenment shaped the world into the form that it is today, but it also marks the start of colonization and the slave trade. The following thesis seeks to demonstrate the importance of the Enlightenment to both colonization and the slave trade; that without it neither of these practices would have had the reach that they achieved over time. Using the works of Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emmanuel Eze, C.L.R. James, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allen Poe, I will demonstrate how the Enlightenment helped to shape the entirety of the slave trade, and how the American Gothic responded with anti-Enlightenment rhetoric in order to warn the American people of Civil War and slave rebellions.