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Grant number: FT-59747-12

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David A. Zimmerman
University of Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, WI 53715-1218)

Complicity and the American Literary Imagination

This project studies antebellum Americans' struggle to understand what it means to be morally complicit, or party to a crime, wrong, or injustice. Drawing on a range of disciplines, the book explores how antebellum efforts to understand the nature and scope of participatory guilt constitute a watershed moment in the history of American thinking about the moral ramifications of social belonging. It also illuminates how U.S. literature was profoundly influenced by authors' efforts to represent how moral culpability spreads among individuals and across political institutions, social networks, and economic systems. An NEH Summer Stipend will allow me to complete the culminating chapter, which focuses on abolitionists' responses to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Project fields:
American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2012 – 8/31/2012