False Gifts/Exotic Fictions: Epistemologies of Sovereignty and Assent in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko

Catherine Molineux

ELH, Volume 80, Number 2, Summer 2013, pp. 455-488 (Article)

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/elh.2013.0015

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False Gifts/Exotic Fictions: Epistemologies of Sovereignty and Assent in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
by catherine molineux

The final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation . . . that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent . . . when there is no visible power to keep them in awe. —Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)1

Oroonoko, the eponymous West African prince of Aphra Behn’s novella, is well known to modern scholars for his problematic embodiment of early modern English notions of sovereignty.2 At seventeen he became, in Behn’s words,
one of the most expert captains and bravest soldiers that ever saw the field of Mars. So he was adored as the wonder of all that world. . . . Besides, he was adorned with a native beauty so transcending . . . his gloomy race, that he struck an awe and reverence even in those that knew not his quality.3

A “native beauty” transcendent of his “gloomy race”: Behn’s racialized construction of Oroonoko’s singular physical appearance and natural aristocracy has troubled modern attempts to understand him as a surrogate Stuart king. The impulse to do so, which animated the earliest efforts to integrate this important text into the literary canon, reflected a desire to recognize what Behn’s contemporaries had not—that this story of an African prince wronged by his king and then enslaved to a violent, greedy, and divided planter class in colonial Surinam echoed James II’s predicament in England when London print shops advertised the novella in June of 1688.4 The evolution of Oroonoko in modern scholarship has paralleled, and at times intervened in, deepening understanding of the complexity
ELH 80 (2013) 455–488 © 2013 by The Johns Hopkins University Press


of political discourse in the decades following the English Civil War. The seventeenth-century crisis of political obligation brought about a difficult and protracted search for new epistemological foundations for sovereignty and assent that has received growing scholarly attention. But few historians of political thought would consider Oroonoko alongside Leviathan—the largely successful integration of Behn’s novella into the literary canon has not translated into its incorporation into political histories of the Civil War or Glorious Revolution, except to a certain extent in recent work by literary critics.5 Two problems, one authorial and one textual, have together contributed to the uneasy placement of Oroonoko within the history of seventeenth-century English political thought: Behn’s murky biography, which has generated a long debate about her politics, and the novella’s internal contradictions and inconsistencies, which render interpretations of its political ideology unstable. Efforts to fix Behn, and by extension her narrator (who is both character and omniscient voice in Oroonoko), in the Whig or Tory camp have focused attention on her party affiliation, despite increasing awareness of the fluidity of such affiliations in the seventeenth century. On the one hand, scholars who have stressed Behn’s Tory allegiances have described Oroonoko as a coded warning to James II of the uprising against him, a defense of royalism, and a critique of Whig ideology that emphasized commercial relationships and popular sovereignty. When not ignored, the textual inconsistencies emerge, most creatively, as a reflection of the instability of late seventeenth-century royalist ideology.6 On the other hand, those who have stressed Behn’s proto-feminism and her friendships with radical freethinkers have instead emphasized Oroonoko’s blackness and the subversive possibilities generated by the novella’s textual ruptures, leading to a spectrum of readings that see the work as everything from a political satire to an allegory of female anonymity in the literary marketplace.7 That scholars have recently returned to George Guffey’s initial characterization of the prince as James II reflects a developing understanding of the varieties of royalism, which has allowed some of the transgressive aspects of Behn’s politics to be incorporated into Tory readings of the text. At this point, Behn appears more royalist than freethinking, but also able to critique her sovereign in ways that commentators in the 1970s, operating within a much narrower vision of royalism than we now have, were unable to imagine. I want to suggest a redirection of interpretive energies. We do not have to define Behn’s party allegiance to understand Oroonoko’s contribution to philosophical debates about political obligation or its novel 456 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions

not a mask for. but rather that at the Atlantic intersection of race. The availability of colonial experience and the historical particularity of imperial formations produced a new meditation on the uncertainty. a subsequent encounter with the prince’s physical appearance introduces a different picture of the origins of his social and political power. entanglements: a dystopian mirror and atlantic terrain About twenty pages after the narrator first describes Oroonoko’s ability to strike “awe” as a natural effect of his aristocracy. unsettling his initial characterization by emphasizing the contingencies of his representation. This glimpse backstage reworks his natural luminosity. Oroonoko rises from grief to resist a devastating attack on his West African country. Oroonoko revealed the violent unsettling of sovereignty and subjectivity in the entanglement of domestic and imperial spaces. and his People had purposely put on him all things that might make him shine with most Splendor. her philosophical exploration of the fictions of sovereignty and assent. That Oroonoko offered both natural and fabricated Catherine Molineux 457 . and status Behn could raise new questions about political authority and subjectivity. formulated acutely around the question of whether a black prince could be a prince. And putting aside her specific party ideology (and the attendant desire to impose a resolution on the text’s internal contradictions) allows this novella’s analysis of the uncertainty and fragility of social and political bonds to come powerfully into view. Behn frequently engaged the subject’s role in shaping kingship. It was not. appearing on the battlefield like “some Divine Power descended to save his Country from Destruction. The narrator’s revelation of Oroonoko’s subjects’ dressing skills stresses their critical role in fashioning his divinity. to strike a reverend Awe into the Beholders” (29). that Oroonoko’s blackness was less important than his royalty to interpretations of the novella’s politics. indeed the illegibility. gender. If Leviathan revealed the violence of the impulse toward stabilization in the midst of civil warfare. As a female playwright versed in the theatricalities of power and a royalist poet who often extolled the virtues of her Stuart kings. sanctioned and shaped by the Atlantic context of analysis that narrated the failure of traditional ideals of sovereignty and the problems of and with submission. The exoticism of her tale was a fundamental component of.construction of the political subject. of appearance. i. as Guffey maintained. and the creative possibilities of political empowerment for a female storyteller in this New World. At the core of this novella is a crisis of representation.

After 458 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . which integrates the imperial margins into understandings of political association by mobilizing both their analogical or metonymic and organic or literal connection to the metropole. but its Atlantic stage licensed a new philosophical exploration of political association and contributed to a debate that had occupied English writers since before the Civil War. but whether a black prince was a fiction of sovereignty offered a new formulation of this troubling uncertainty. Although recent studies of European state formation have turned attention to its connection to the “political structuring of empires” (recognizing that both processes were perpetually being created. where they rediscover their love and their desire to be free. both literal and imaginative. Refusing to accept the king’s prerogative to do so. raising a slave rebellion against the unsavory planters.8 Emerging legal geographies of colonial spaces and encounters with African and Native American polities produced new sites. Whether a prince was inherently a prince (either by nature or by God) or whether he was someone dressed up as a prince was a familiar question. The basic plot outline is as follows: Oroonoko falls in love with the beautiful African maiden Imoinda. rebellion.9 That entangled context is critical to understanding a text like Oroonoko. regicide. unfulfilled promises.constructions of sovereignty is not therefore surprising. Their breach of royal custom leads to Imoinda’s enslavement in Surinam. while Oroonoko’s misinterpretation of his status with a slave trader soon leads him to the same fate. the Anglo-American turn to plantation slavery. the overwhelmingly domestic focus of seventeenth-century English political histories has tended to isolate the crisis of political obligation from its imperial and Atlantic context. but his impotent grandfather prevents their marriage by placing her in the royal harem.10 Its account of broken allegiances. The novella connects West African and English Caribbean histories of violence in the 1660s through their links to the Atlantic slave trade. and invasion embeds (from a royalist perspective that characterized the republic as a period of bondage) a compressed political history of seventeenth-century England in this history of the Gold Coast and English Surinam. depicting the origins of African slaves in West African wars and European trade practices. Behn engaged novel ideas about the basis of political authority. of sovereignty. while using an Atlantic space to stress the problems of uncertainty and representation in politics. and transformed in response to and through each other). negotiated. slavery. The narrator encounters the royal pair in the colony. Oroonoko sneaks into the harem and “ravish[es]” her (24). and European rivalries over the lucrative West Indies.

Scholars have pointed to the republication of Civil War tracts during the 1680s as evidence of the centrality of this conflict to contemporary understandings of the Glorious Revolution.14 but it also reflected peripherally on renewed fascination during the 1680s with the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Oroonoko’s bondage and execution denaturalize the idea of romantic kingship—the chivalrous ideal of sovereignty in which kings were warriors and lovers—by revealing its threat to. but his need for revenge ends in his gruesome dismemberment at the colonists’ hands. but little attention has been paid to how colonial peripheries of the Civil War also became part of seventeenth-century discussions about the origins and progress of Catherine Molineux 459 .the field slaves desert their revolt. non-heritable Native American sovereignties to contextualize the black prince’s fall into bondage. violent conflict ensues from the clash of chivalric values of love. rather than inspiration of. Behn’s choice of 1660s Surinam may have resulted from her own colonial travels (it is possible she visited the colony as an agent of Charles II). I would also add that the novella compares Oroonoko’s vainglorious struggle to regain his status to the ritualized self-mutilation of old Surinam Indian warcaptains who have lost theirs.11 Behn used the fractious nature of this young colonial settlement and the political alternatives figured in African and Native Surinam societies to interrogate the nature of political conquest and dominion. This history of the “royal slave.13 Dramatizing tensions created by both royal impotence and new commercial wealth. of splintered.12 As Elliott Visconsi and Richard Kroll have pointed out. the English slave trader who captures Oroonoko. borrowing a view. honor. moreover. The failures of sovereignty figured in the African king’s tyranny. Oroonoko explores the fictions of sovereignty through these exotic political forms. she used a female narrator at a moment when women’s ability to manipulate political events and male authority was deeply contentious. popularized by Spanish authors. and virtue (embodied in Oroonoko and Imoinda) and the pursuit of self-interest (embodied in the old West African king. and the Native Surinam captains’ self-mutilation interpolate this corruption of romantic kingship into an imagined Atlantic world.” which contemporary readers understood to be truth embellished with “strange fabulous circumstances. colonial “Tyranny” (59). the lovers die in a botched murdersuicide pact: Oroonoko kills Imoinda. and the Surinam planters who execute him).” was both a reflection of the domestic crisis of political obligation and an extension of its geographical and racial reach. an aged king and planter elite. Or to put it another way.

Such tracts as A. On the one hand. on the other hand. The prince’s life plots the ambiguities of equity and abuses of power. Imperial propaganda that had. which criticized the slave societies that had emerged. violent. since the late sixteenth century. violence. Some writers. must be from length of time. Oroonoko borrows a periphery of the Civil War to think through the continued dissolution of political relationships.16 Looking to this colonial past. B. it also shares genre space with accounts of the colonial frontiers of Civil War. and greed reflects a deep engagement with contemporary responses to the West Indies. Re-presenting the monarchical crisis in terms of a slave rebellion in the Caribbean was not an entirely novel move. by the late seventeenth century. and profit-oriented societies. along with their tragic consequences. which includes many of the historical personages found in Behn’s quasifictional Surinam. especially those with Whiggish sensibilities.”18 Oroonoko’s evocation of these issues of demography. narrated the continuation of political antagonism among exile settlements in the Caribbean. Lord Frances Willoughby of Parham (lieutenant governor of the West Indies from 1647 to 1652 and 1660 to 1663. and likely the model for the narrator’s unnamed dead father and Oroonoko’s master in Behn’s novella) pointed out.17 But such encomiums to empire jostled with more pessimistic views of colonization. a popular setting for reflection about political instability and social corruption. “All new colonies you know of what sort of People generally they are made up of. royal governor from 1663 to his death in 1666. in an Atlantic world that both refracted and extended troubling political and social changes at home. so that. what we in probability can expect from them. the Caribbean had become. Oroonoko looks back to Henry Neville’s Isles of Pines (1667) and forward to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). and the good example of those who have been more civilly bred. vaunted settlement as a means to relocate unwanted Britons had fostered pejorative views of white settlers. An emerging moral geography of empire located the outer edges of civility in the colonies. linked this space of intense imperial competition to the rise of commerce and spread of liberty at home. in its explicit claims to historicity. Rather than take an overt stand in colonization debates (or a moral 460 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions .’s A Briefe Relation of the Beginning and Ending of the Troubles of the Barbados (1653). Known for its anarchic.unrest.15 But. literary works that appropriated colonial settings to elicit greater reflection on authority and subjectivity at home. where planters turned heathen and heathens proved more ethical than their purportedly Christian masters.

commenting on James II’s difficulties in his attempt to centralize England’s growing empire).21 That redirection occurs within the context of Oroonoko’s blackness. contemporary concerns with English slavers’ indiscriminate approach to their trade. James Harrington. for an absolute prince to subdue the population. or partially absolves. Behn domesticated the colonial subject in her analysis of the failures of sovereignty. but the novella stages this political and social corruption to invoke the representational failure of such “visible power” (perhaps. Her novella encourages indignation rather than outrage at the prince’s subjugated condition. in a Hobbesian vein. Oroonoko views through an Atlantic displacement the abuses of authority and appetites for power that made such bonds unlikely.20 Scholars have typically seen this dystopian political vision as calling. A variety of forms of political and social tension dramatize and personalize the causes and effects of unrest.19 The novella highlights how fears of English degeneration on the peripheries exported domestic concerns about continued internecine violence at home in the wake of civil warfare—and also how the appetite for conquest and dominion figured most clearly in imperial spaces became a particularly useful trope to investigate the causes of political unrest. which play on. Fashionable distaste with the English Caribbean (many wished the islands would sink to the “bottom of the seas”) and general notions of African despotism and Indian savagery sanctioned Behn’s broader inquiry into the uncertainty in and abuses of political relationships. Behn invoked the dystopian colonial society that worried political writers about empire to reconsider the foundations of political association. John Locke. but it also hides Behn’s investigation of royal power by directing attention to the peculiarity of the prince’s circumstances. and other political writers sought to conceive the social contract in such a way to ensure governmental stability and longevity.position on African slavery). however. both in his physical form and in his refusal to submit to even the “Name” of “Slave” (42). Appealing to the man of feeling who was becoming central to what Victoria Kahn calls Catherine Molineux 461 . among other things. situating reactions to his predicament in the realm of sentiment rather than explicit political critique and allowing Behn to navigate treacherous waters in her depiction of the failures of sovereignty in the refusal of assent to its embodied values. in so doing. her readers from culpability in his demise. While Thomas Hobbes. but the core conflict in Oroonoko pivots around Oroonoko’s enslavement and execution. The narrator explicitly differentiates the black prince from the field slaves. Doing so affirms the exceptionalism of royal blood. as his exoticism absolves.

22 ii. recurring. there must be something more. which Behn also parodied). or of Wit? Or that great name he has acquir’d in War? Is it the Majesty. and driving force in Behn’s novella. Behn invited identification with Oroonoko as she explored through his exoticism the representational. —But why. Was ever wretched Lovers fate like mine! —And he who injures me. and thus epistemological. Something within me pleads so kindly for him.a “newly aestheticized order of sensibility” in post-Civil War England. because the prince has both defiled his sister and attempted to rape his lover. that Holy something. In her comedy The Amorous Prince (1671). Curtis stops the attack on his lover. a Florentine prince. As would perswade me that he could not erre. but the prince cannot brook his resistance and challenges him to a duel. often around colonial rebellions (such as Nathaniel Bacon’s in Virginia. For ever when I call upon my wrongs. and banish’d too from Laura. or whether divine right necessitated non-resistance (or at least passive obedience) to royal authority occupied both popular and elite forms of political debate. These rebellions and the anxieties they provoked provide a critical context for the absences of de facto authority that are a central. As Thomas Otway lamented in his prologue to Behn’s The City-Heiress (1682). has power to do so. love and awe English anxieties about arbitrary government and what constituted legitimate resistance had resurfaced in the 1670s. a demon had filled “the heads of Fools with Politicks. where lies this power about this man? Is it his charms of Beauty.23 Whether an original social contract circumscribed royal authority and legitimated resistance. —Ah.”24 Behn’s earlier characterizations of the psychological and social conflicts generated by royal power provide some insight into her awareness of the growing uncertainty about divine right and its attendant focus on the individualistic nature of assent. Believing that his sister committed suicide because the prince betrayed his marital promises. That guards the person of this Demi-god? This aws not me. crisis around sovereignty and assent. Curtis ponders the nature of his relationship with the prince: —Poor Cloris dead. what is this? where lies this power divine. That can so easily make a slave of mine?25 462 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Curtis struggles with his obligations to his friend Frederick.

The West African events unfold because of the king’s sexual impotence. That Willoughby had been accused of high treason against Charles I. / Each look does even Animate Insensibles. who stressed the foundations of sovereignty in affective ties. beyond the two royal slaves such affective bonds are few and far between. prevented him [from approaching her]. Behn stylized various absences of authority in ways that range from physical absences of royal power to individual selfinterest that disrupts its expression.29 Ignorance of the origins of such natural attachments was critical to their binding effects. Although Oroonoko foregrounds a story of love. the failure of such bonds and.Behn explained royal power in terms of the enslaving effects of love.26 Love was. emphasizing in different ways the “reverend awe” that it inspired in one’s heart. and a certain Awe and Reverence. so universally or politically compelling. in her works as with most of her contemporaries’. Cloris tells Prince Frederick that she is in love. / Nothing is found so lovely. She used such reverent awe interchangeably in scenes of royal power and in those of more general experiences of love. his “wonders would cease. but none produce stability. however. / And strikes a reverend awe upon the Soul. The extended dash stands for the king’s authority. When Willoughby’s overseer seeks to invoke his authority. a passion that bound one involuntarily to another. such representational truths carries the plot forward. allegedly the only individual with greater authority than herself in the colony. In her novella The Lucky Mistake (1689). while Willoughby’s prolonged absence from Surinam provides room for a slave rebellion and royal execution to occur. Rinaldo’s “Heart fail’d [at the sight of the beauty. Echoing her literary predecessor Margaret Cavendish and English political theorists following Jean Bodin. His absence situates her narrative between the departure of one authority and the arrival of a replacement. in Behn’s view. that Oliver Cromwell had appointed him to his West Catherine Molineux 463 . suggests that such attachments were no longer. Atlante].”27 In The Amorous Prince. William Byam (59). which gives Oroonoko’s rebellion legitimacy. or rather the Fears and Tremblings of a Lover. and if he saw “the object” [him].”28 Such awe involved a sight of wonder and beauty that made one a “slave” to it.30 Instead. he argues that his “Lord—— (who there represented the King’s person)” stood above the law imposed by the deputy governor. by extension. Different governmental systems exist in this transatlantic world. The role of love in Oroonoko. Behn found in love an explanation of and basis for irrevocable allegiance. allowing her to explore and then discard the potential for resistance. The narrator never names Willoughby.

Oroonoko’s overseer. but only because the captain falsely promises to restore his freedom. but neither party holds to that relationship. obeying royalist principle. while . these moments reflect the consistency of Behn’s royalism. as a masculine appetite for conquest and dominion. one should add Imoinda’s submission to the African king and subsequent invitation to Oroonoko to ravish her. help Oroonoko to enter the harem. the king’s courtiers abjure their responsibilities to him and. On the slave ship and in Surinam. still submits to the duly constituted powers. but the “Uncertainty” of political conflicts. The prince submits to Byam’s power in Surinam on the basis of a written contract. however. Devotion no longer overrides self-interest.33 Such politicized eroticism is a central trope in Behn’s plays. or through the agency of white subjects or delegations of power to imperial proxies like proprietors or slaveholders) spaces in which the fictions of rule were revealed to be fictions dependent on assent. in which internal struggle between self-interest and subject devotion provide a crucial animating conflict. Oroonoko highlights how imperial expansion perpetually disrupted the establishment of sovereignty by creating (either through the racialization of sovereignty. as well as his extended (and homoerotic) submission to his overseer and later rebellion against the planter system. and that he then switched sides at the Restoration all add ambiguities to this characterization of royal power. .” was the backdrop to the failure of political attachments in her tale. who defends the enslaved prince to the end as a representation of the “King’s person. Recent interpretations of Oroonoko as a royalist text understand these stylized absences of power as figuring a nostalgic invocation of 464 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Oroonoko submits. Oroonoko. For Kroll. love loses. which made “People still entertain a Correspondence with the adverse Party. . in gendered and imperialistic terms. In West Africa.”32 But to that list. The ship captain breaks his friendship and economic relationship with Oroonoko when he seizes the prince as cargo. for personal interests. which Behn predominantly characterizes. self-interest continues to destabilize ritual expressions of submission.31 The novella investigates a series of failed bonds.Indian office. as those “like the captain and Byam who should mediate royal authority in fact subvert it. her agreement to live in bondage as long as the prince is with her and her incitement of his rebellion. As a result.” is undermined by other planters’ refusal to recognize that authority (59). Such shifting allegiances may not have been foremost in Behn’s mind as she wrote this novella. Oroonoko’s initial submission to his king’s claim to Imoinda and his subsequent resistance. In Oroonoko.

not fear. But a Hobbesian reading of Oroonoko encounters two problems: first. in Behn’s formulation of Oroonoko’s physical appearance. which reanimated Hobbesian notions of the necessity of “awe” to compel obedience.”37 Subjects or potential subjects see Oroonoko’s royalty and refuse to internalize its obligations. Hobbes had suggested that once a sovereign lost the capacity to protect his people. that seem to tie to something. in which he tells his fellow ship captives that they will be freed. and dominion” would consent to restraints on their freedom. “Oaths and obligations in the affairs of the world are like ribbons and knots in dressing. encapsulates these broader problems with submission.34 Such awe. “Where these principles Catherine Molineux 465 . except when his interests mirror those of his subjects. and the “Divine Homage” (37) that plantation slaves pay him is broken when he calls upon their military duties. Oroonoko’s “Divine Oracle” (33). creating a critical parallel between the African king’s abuse of his royal prerogative and the planters’ petty tyranny. Depicting the failure of affective bonds did not necessarily mean making an invocation of coercion and force: for Behn. in Hobbes’s political theory. The novella thus turns attention from the problem of whether God had sanctioned a king to the uncertainty of assent. explains why men who “naturally love liberty. imaginatively reworking questions about de facto government. a physiological response to a “visible power” suggested. This proposition horrified some of his readers: John Bramhall (1594–1663) hyperbolized. it enabled a new meditation on the uncertainty of political association. engaging readers in questions about the motives for obedience. As the royalist Samuel Butler remarked. second.strong monarchy. The failure of Oroonoko’s royalty to elicit obedience. those invoked by the feudal relations implied by homage.35 This justification of a strong monarch flows from his explanation of the terror required to induce obedience as a means to self-preservation.”36 But that neat explication of her dark view of royal power’s efficacy overlooks her simultaneous ambivalence about whether subjects would or should assent to it in the first place. but do not at all. For nothing but interest does really oblige. Behn’s notion of awe was rooted in love. consent evaporated in the face of the natural right to self-defense. Kroll circumvents this leveling of royal and elite pursuits of personal interest by arguing that Behn critiqued the Stuarts’ abuse of power to “recall them to their best selves. turns out to be false. by the verb “strike” (12). The slaves’ desertion of Oroonoko’s colonial rebellion undermines his royal authority. Oroonoko’s rage against the system provides the driving force for his rebellions against West African and colonial Surinam authorities.

and fidelity. Political writers from both parties of her day preferred to stress man’s natural 466 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . the illegibility of the exotic Key to understanding Oroonoko’s ambiguous moral perspective on this new politicization of individual passions and interest is its engagement with contemporary debates about man’s nature. all must give place to self-interest.prevail. ineffectuality. While Behn invokes corrupt Atlantic polities to test romantic kingship. Oroonoko emphasizes the impermanence. she also borrows an Atlantic stage to interrogate the state of original innocence. What for a man to desert his sovereign upon the first prevalence of an enemy.39 Through the repeated breaking of relationships.40 By staging (in this colonial past) the lack of compulsion to maintain political alliances. using the illegibility of the exotic to explore the interpretive problems raised by new foundations of political obligation. Oroonoko instead mobilizes the exotic to figure the uncertainty of representational truth that haunted the fiction of sovereignty. Oroonoko reflects a broader seventeenth-century shift in what Kahn calls the “libidinal economy of political obligation. or the first appearance of a sword. that is more able to protect us for the present?”38 Although the romance between Imoinda and Oroonoko appears to drive this novella (because it drives the main characters). or the first payment of a petty contribution. iii. sovereignty depended not on abstract values but on the ability to acquire an audience that identified its own interests with the sovereign’s. Behn was far from unique in recognizing that political instability grew from the failure of these basic ties: much ink was expended in an effort to naturalize conscience and counter or qualify Hobbes’s suggestion that man was principally guided by interest. and honesty. in fact such self-interest. Behn emphasized that power structures relied on the fundamentally unstable confluence of personal and political interest. Oroonoko emphasizes how.” in which individual passions and interest became as important as or supplanted more traditional royalist conceptions of love as the basis for obedience to the sovereign. and loyalty. for Behn. Rather than invoke the need for an absolute sovereign.” determines the direction of events (7). adieu honour. carefully located in this “other world. underscoring the epistemological difficulties of identifying or determining interests: the sovereign’s ability to ascertain a subject’s true motives and the subject’s commitment to the idea of sovereignty was problematic because it was difficult to judge appearance. and outright manipulation of such forms of allegiance.

the celebrated story of Inkle and Yarico would). even as others found in them a prelapsarian past. had long articulated a dualistic vision. The morality of pursuing self-interest. for those they make use of there. The narrator returns to the tale of Oroonoko’s enslavement: tyranny. Some English travelers stressed the cruelty and treachery of native Caribbean peoples. without daring to command ’em. The narrator’s second visit to native Surinam. no religion destroys tranquility. destabilizes this “absolute Idea” of innocence. and intrigue victimize those. caress ’em with all the brotherly and friendly Affection in the World.”41 But descriptions of native American societies. but rather by comparing it with English relationships with Surinam Indians.43 The narrator. but on the contrary. Oroonoko’s enslavement by his slaving friend. At first. virtue.42 Both of these perspectives appear in Oroonoko. for instance. if so clearly evil in Bramhall’s rejection of Hobbesian notions of natural law. are not Natives of the place. no concept of lying or curiosity exists (10). is more ambiguous in Behn’s Atlantic world. explains this act not through a discussion of corrupt English merchants (as. however. which complicated abstractions of the original state of mankind precisely because they were sometimes perceived to be present embodiments of it. one which sought and generally failed to reconcile notions of prelapsarian innocence with fears of human barbarity. indigenous freedom embodies an “absolute Idea of the first State of Innocence. trading with ’em for their Fish. She borrows Oroonoko’s protection to Catherine Molineux 467 . before Man knew how to sin”: no laws teach grievances. This statement gives way to a description of the Indians: [B]efore I give you the Story of this Gallant Slave. she says that to understand the “Gallant Slave” the reader needs a history of how he came to be in Surinam. Near the beginning of the tale. Venison[. a man supposedly unique among the traders for his civility. ’tis fit I tell you the manner of bringing them to these new Colonies. however. who share the Indians’ belief in honor. Oroonoko contextualizes the prince’s fall into slavery (and thus the failures of sovereignty) by drawing upon the more ambivalent picture of man’s native innocence. and truth.] (8) Native Surinam provides context for Oroonoko’s enslavement. war. offers a base picture of the greed that drove transatlantic trade and a familiar story of the failure of traditional bonds of trust. for those we live with in perfect Amity. such as the prince.sociability rather than “trademark Hobbesian anti-social tendencies and individualism. creating a critical ambivalence about man’s natural inclinations. flattery.

regardless of first impressions. raising epistemological questions.go to an Indian town. she designs her approach based on the most effective means of eliciting their curiosity (deliberately putting on a “Glittering and Rich” English outfit ridiculous for the Surinam jungle [48]). The second view of native Surinam contradicts the first. more deception and curiosity than content. associating their non-heritable and local forms of sovereignty with a state of perpetual war. rather than Wounds got in Noble Battel” (50). At first he is uncertain “how they all came by those frightful marks of Rage or Malice. virtue into blindness. then man’s natural state appears Hobbesian. greed. The state of nature in Behn’s Surinam depends on whether the second visit to native society is understood as historical chronology or as a reflective revision of a misguided first impression. to be the “first State” of mankind (10). and every Moment see” (9). If the Indians’ love of “small and unvaluable Trifles” (10) represents Europeans’ degenerative effect on them (an argument common among Whigs and an effect in which the narrator is then complicit as she makes herself a curiosity). in fact.45 In Oroonoko. around a central concept of political philosophy that framed moral judgments of man’s associative patterns. and mathematical instruments with which the slave trader entertained him) and finally by his curiosity about the slave ship’s inner structures: “so that he was curious of beholding every place. But curiosity enables the friendly reception that they receive in the later visit.44 The narrator’s two Indian encounters could similarly contribute to colonial discourses that constructed the savage subject from anxieties about the dangers of civilization. the second visitation qualifies the first. as he was enticed by the objects of science (the maps. and superstition. Such interest in European technologies had also led to Oroonoko’s enslavement. stressing the transparency of their verbal and physical relationships: in her words. translating innocence into fated ignorance. “all you can see. formulated again through the problems of appearance. the African prince wonders at the native Surinam war captains’ terrible “Dismemberings” (50). revealing war. where he decently might descend” and promptly fell into slavery (31). And the Indians now have a word for “Numberless Wonders” (48). however. She first had singled out curiosity as non-existent in the natives’ prelapsarian state. globes. If. you see at once. Once 468 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . the later visit exposes the corruption of native purity and narrates the Fall. Spanish chroniclers had long described autochthonous New World polities as inhabiting an intermediary position between wildness and civilization. where they see more superstition and gullibility than innocence.

he admires them but thinks that their “Debate” is a form of “Courage” too brutal to be applauded” (50). however.” she first mistakes these captains for “Hobgoblins. or perhaps it was. this “Idea” of innocence serves as a foil for the corrupt actions of the planters. severely qualifying the old imperial myth of a free trade that would benefit European interests.46 For her “part. But paying attention to how Behn plays with contemporary uncertainty about human nature reveals how the novella places individual appetites for conquest and dominion in a morally ambiguous light. as the ambiguity surrounding man’s native innocence makes ethical judgments of the pursuit of self-interest difficult. slaver. she explains that such friendship reflects the Indians’ demographic superiority. On the surface. or Fiends.” Oroonoko stresses the improbability of knowing with any certainty the true nature of man. In Behn’s seventeenth-century context. appropriating the colonial encounter to figure the uncertainty of social and political bonds. the failure of the representation (the “Idea” of innocence originally embodied in native Surinam) to produce knowledge reflected its incomplete identification with the external objects of sense—the social experience of encounter.he understands that these aged warriors. The narrator’s second visit to native Surinam. The narrator offers this alternate model of colonization in direct contrast with the slave trade. The narrator’s “absolute Idea of the first State of Innocence” turns out to be not so absolute. inflecting it with a natural barbarity that renders it an ambiguous counterpoint to the anarchic and oppressive plantation society. for instance. Oroonoko narrates the ambivalence that characterized contemporary discussions about the state of nature by drawing upon an illegibility that also constructed the exotic. Echoing contemporary political disputes about how to know what was “natural. The introductory section describes Surinam as a natural bounty that friendship with natives could transform into a rich source of commodities. rather than Men” (50). Catherine Molineux 469 . What one saw was perhaps not what one saw. unsettles this Edenic vision. when they could no longer fight in war. The postlapsarian vision of native Surinam. competed with each other by voluntarily self-mutilating as a battle waged. collapses the narrator’s initial distinction between the earthly colonial garden of native-English friendship and the greed and corruption sustaining the slave trade. Behn appropriates that failure to talk about the failure of ideals in general and those that supported romantic kingship in particular. while the state of nature may be far less than innocent.47 Epistemological uncertainty haunts both sovereignty and moral judgments of individualistic behavior. and African king.

the imagined. and suggests that. but internal motivations reflect an appetite for conquest and dominion. and to personate is to act. but he died in the Dutch invasion of Surinam. Christian piety (slaver). tragic death of a romance becomes an enslavement. now made use of all his Art of talking. Byam. “a person is the same that an actor is. highlighting her narrator’s timely escape from those political conflicts. or royalist passive obedience (Martin). The innocent bodies of native Surinam Indians become potentially savage. chivalric virtues become myopic beliefs. and dissembling” (55). Behn repeatedly asserts the power of this moral exemplar to invoke emulation and thereby promote certain social mores (5). Oroonoko’s overseer is the only English character to remain consistently other-oriented. The ironic disruption of the “Idea” occurs in the epistemological questioning of truth—how to know what we know about the world around us. or another. and Excellent Morality” makes one susceptible to subversion (6). and so on.49 Indeed. drawn from natural philosophy and the stage. Colonel Martin hides his participation in these conflicts of interest by relying on a more passive form of aggression. in this interested world. than that of depriving him of Life. But as the black prince continues to believe 470 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Behn tells her literary patron that Oroonoko’s overseer had intended to write about the prince’s life. or represent himself. elevating himself above the colonial executioners by expressing a disdainful interest in Oroonoko’s quartered body that reaffirms his own dominion over his slaves. relies on his ability to twist the truth: as the narrator remarks.At the heart of this novella is an investigation of representation— of how ideas about the world are embodied and then disrupted. but as he fails to save the prince. the natural aristocracy of an African prince becomes perhaps a fabricated shininess dependent on subjective participation. he “more thirsting after Revenge of another sort. Oroonoko is the “visible power” that should have induced obedience and brought order. being what you seem can lead to your downfall. Some seventeenth-century theories of representation. Using the illegibility of the exotic. Starting with her dedication’s lament of the dearth of “Great” men in England. Behn exposes a structural problem of determining true motivations. perceived every act as an act of representation: as Hobbes famously observed.”48 The interactions in Oroonoko are based on a central disjunction between outward appearance or persona and internal motivations: outward appearance might be traditional gallantry (Oroonoko). the novella suggests that public resistance in the name of “true Notions of Faith. both on the stage and in common conversation. in his face-off with Oroonoko.

that people will respect his status. and attributes it to a masculine response to social and political impotence.” then finally disemboweling himself (62–63). African on Indian. another conqueror. in his last stand he embodies the passive courage of suicide: “’tis not life I seek. the slaves. No indication emerges that an absolute prince. nor am I afraid of Dying.” If the prince originally viewed their self-mutilating “Debate” (50) as too savage for his tastes. Encountering in the colonial narrator the same problems of appearance that shape her tale draws the reader into the interpretive problems that the text itself explores. this prince becomes a slave to individual interest. in Adam Sills’s words. but savage destruction of himself. Visconsi points to this serial experience of conquest as evidence of Behn’s belief in the necessity of an absolute prince. Dutch on English and Indian. Behn links such “Passive valour” to a desire to possess oneself. ironically illuminating the instabilities of social and political bonds by emphasizing the instability of signification. and Byam because he believes they will treat him with respect. The novella’s final reduction of the prince to a psychological portrait of impotency brings Behn’s meditation on the fictions of sovereignty to a close. And thanks to the narrator’s contradictory and inconsistent representations. Oroonoko elaborates upon the transitory nature of conquest and repeatedly defers the question of just or unjust conquest to the reader.50 He falls to the slaver. similar epistemological problems complicate the reader’s ability to judge. The novella’s last scenes revisit the earlier contrast of the African prince with the native war captains: Oroonoko sheds his active military honor for a version of the aged Indian’s “Passive valour. even as it underlines the difficulties of assessing individual motivation for obedience (5). The exoticism of this tale thus enables a critique of Oroonoko’s heroism as his rebellion ultimately turns inward to the perhaps admirable.”51 But the modern uncertainty about whether Oroonoko is that absolute prince is an extension of the very problem with representational truth that made Behn’s story possible. English on African. without whom “English political life spirals back down into barbarism. slavery levels him with Imoinda. Oroonoko’s cyclical progress of masculine domination and enslavement involves a series of Atlantic couplings—African on African. “fatal myopia” is equated with his beloved’s unsuccessful challenge to patriarchal power. his gullibility or. rather. would arrive. By involving her Catherine Molineux 471 . Oroonoko emphasizes how the “Great Man” depends on popular assent by literalizing how. in fact.” Oroonoko declares before proceeding to “cut a piece of Flesh from his own Throat and thr[o]w it at ’em.

while never quite acquiescing to. It is. in the Captain. an apolitical perspective. like Behn’s authorial fame was.52 Placed alongside her ambiguous portrait of human nature. as brave. the narrator tries to “give him all the Satisfaction I possibly cou’d” (41). taking gratification from the vainglorious thought that he could do what no other man could.” The narrator reports: “Some have commended this Act. and leave it to my Reader. an Indian village. “it may not be unpleasant to relate to you the Diversions we entertain’d him with. Yet as the prince borrows Hannibal’s flight plans. As Oroonoko grows more irritated and Willoughby’s arrival to free him seems increasingly less likely. especially for women.readers in this fraught interpretive experience. female arts encourage his mimetic desire as the narrator offers him garlands and praises his bravery. As a single. the delay between Oroonoko’s disgruntlement with slavery and his rebellion appears to be as much about the narrator’s positioning as his: as she carefully says. stressing the importance of identifying the form of authority most appealing to a broad audience (7). the narrator attaches herself to the displaced royal prince (or rather he to her). the slaving galleon “ma[kes] from the Shore with this innocent and glorious Prize. Her successful adventuring and acquisition of this tale is an artifice created by and in the space enabled by a gallant man’s presence. contingent and dependent on her relationship with a prince. the narrator’s involvement in Surinam society leads to a revelation of the strategic possibilities for empowerment. Behn draws attention to the female storyteller’s fresh opportunities for political empowerment in this new and possibly fallen world. however. If Imoinda’s acceptance of the prince in place of her dead father offers a counterexample to the narrator’s own avoidance of that consequence to her father’s interminable absence. the dissembling female narrator Oroonoko highlights the potential benefits of allying but not sacrificing oneself to a “Gallant” man’s pursuit of power. 472 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . but I will spare my sense of it. fatherless woman in Surinam. or rather he us” (42–43). When the English slaver entices the prince onto his ship and then hides his act of seizure behind Christian piety. iv. Through him she gains access to the Surinam forests. and his tragic romance. The female narrator. never fully aligns herself with Oroonoko. constructing an outsider’s position to the unfolding events that approaches. purportedly as his patron (an inversion licensed by the colonial context).

She exists above and beyond while within the story. including female subjects’. she also retreats from it. “(God Bless Him)” (37). Her omniscient voice allows her to participate in the characterization of resistance and authority. forgets parts of the story. often expressed in parenthetical retreats. attributed explicitly to her femininity. As the narrator dissembles. while rendering her perception of these events ambiguous. These dissembling and contradictory statements. absents herself from key moments in which she would have to reveal her allegiances. collaboration in its representation.to judge as he pleases” (31). especially of passive obedience. and dictate her relationship to them. provides one example (16). The exposé of the West African king’s “Court-flatterers. models how a woman of her time might survive and potentially benefit from such conflicts. shape the direction of events.” who say whatever appeases his desires to protect their court positions. The Surinam slaves who greet Oroonoko with “overjoy” and “over-ceremony” (37) offer another: their display of adoration worries the prince. Her self-dissimulations craft a disinterested self-portrait. stages questionable educational moments for the royal slaves. Her departure from the scene of Oroonoko’s final rebellion. When she offers a critique of the colonial council that executes Oroonoko. but her interpretation and withdrawal from interpretation of other characters’ behaviors become more significant as she reveals the “Dissembling” of other characters in the tale (55). and exposes the deception involved in other characters’ self-representations. while allusively manifesting her power as storyteller to control the representation of her subjects. she would have had the “authority and interest” to have prevented it (57).53 Her ability to extricate herself from both rebellion and regicide. had she been there. obfuscate her perspective. yet her narrator tells the reader that. When she describes the Surinam slaves’ reception of Oroonoko as comparable to how the English King would have been received. hides her conspicuous absence from his death: in the dedication. Their desertion of his rebellion destabilizes the meaning of their original adoration. readers confront a text that demonstrates the subversive possibilities available to women in new political ideologies. and he has reason to be anxious. Behn tells her literary patron. Catherine Molineux 473 . so as “(not to disgrace them. Lord Maitland. eternal in contrast to the cycles of masculine conquest and subjugation that we see through her narrative effects. Such narrative ruptures draw attention to the reliance of authority on subjects’. emerging in the Stuart era. or Burlesque the Government there)” (59). she defuses the comparison by inserting a parenthetical adulatory statement. that she “wanted power” to prevent Oroonoko’s death (7).

The first indication of this ambiguity arises in the narrator’s explication of the prince’s resistance to his king. sharing his uncertainty and identifying with his anxiety. The narrator’s rhetorical ambiguities integrate the uncertainty over the moment of marriage that plagued English politicians into this foreign tale. if consummation. At its simplest. Oroonoko is a tale in which the reduction of bodies to property renders romance tragically impotent. but being incapable of having sex with her. The two unexplained ceremonies—the first with an occasion (marriage) but a “forgotten” event and the second with an event (the bed of state) but no stated occasion—suggest that Imoinda has been ritually bedded. yet the king’s “possess[ion]” of her also raises questions about Oroonoko’s manic focus on her virginity (18). She disrupts her omniscient presence by remarking upon her own forgetfulness in telling certain parts of the tale.” but the narrator has “forgotten” to ask how it was performed. She forgets. including the narrator. the narrator generates two possible readings of Oroonoko’s honor: the first scenario involves an impotent king breeching custom and taking Imoinda. however. like Oroonoko. Oroonoko’s “ravishing” of her therefore consummates their original vows (24).54 The many instances of such dissembling create an ongoing theme of problematic submission that characters.56 Yet. to discover the specifics of the royal lovers’ informal marriage in West Africa: a certain “Ceremony” was “to be observ’d. Sometime later the pair returns and dancing brings another “Ceremony” to a close (22). After Imoinda has been placed in the harem. Oroonoko is already unmanned before he reaches 474 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . facilitating a second reading of Oroonoko’s actions.making it possible to infer that the narrator’s hyperbole (“over” joy and “over” ceremony) suggested that their motives were different from her explanations. her unreliability makes it impossible to pin down the authorial perspective on their relationship. held no prima facie right over formal marriage.55 While the narrator’s romantic portraits of the slaves contribute obvious moral valences to their experiences of enslavement. leaving the marriage vows obscure (16).” encouraging the reader to overlook this act of rebellion (18). We. This reading supports his heroic image: the narrator stresses the king’s impotency and Oroonoko asserts that the “Breach of the Law” was “on his Grand-father’s side. By forgetting to ask about the first marital ceremony. a similar disjunction occurs as the king takes her to a “Bed of state” strewn with flowers. The two ceremonies dramatize Imoinda’s struggle between informal and formal possession. as Tories believed. recognize and that shapes how events unfold. are forced to wait outside the royal marital bedroom. for instance.

Through laced “edges” we learn that her skin is a portrait of flowers and birds (40). defiles a king’s wife. her body is a “wonder” (16) fit to become one of the prized “antiquaries” (8) with which the narrator says the English King fills his cabinets.Surinam. she says (40). Imoinda suffers the consequences of Oroonoko’s acts of resistance: she is sold and then murdered. That the flowers strewn on her marital bed become etched onto her body and reappear as her deathbed ties these three moments together in an unstable constellation of virtue and prostitution. Her flowerbed of state becomes her body carved with flowers. This forgotten point reinvokes an image of flowers just before the royal slaves marry in Surinam. which. The prince’s murder of her (and failure to complete the suicide pact) makes this instability permanent as it elicits one of the narrator’s paranthetical retreats: “he first resolv’d on a Deed. That the prince believes he should (if he has taken a wife of the king) “abandon [his] Country. his chivalry unsettled by the narrator’s suggestion of baser motives and her allusions to a forgotten antiheroic version of events. signified marriage regardless of priestly ceremony. then only the “Idea” that Oroonoko finds the most “pleas[ing]” thought that “flatter’d best his heart”—that the king cannot have sex with Imoinda—maintains the romance in his repossession of his beloved (17). where her body severed from her “face” will lay “decently on Leaves and Flowers. and Imoinda’s virtue compromised from the start. but the narrator destabilizes the romantic narrative by drawing attention to her forgetfulness in telling the story.57 Her tragedy has a long. and conceal’d it under the same cover-lid of Nature” (61). “I had forgot to tell you” about Imoinda’s scarification. if consummation. a literal forgetting of Imoinda’s body that again raises questions about her virtue. recalling those scattered on the king’s bed of state and foreshadowing her death. of which he made a Bed. in this version. Similarly. His rebellions’ legitimacy depends on the power of the romantic to overshadow the political narrative of resistance. in a characteristically incomplete way. becomes her deathbed. The narrator offers a second act of narrative forgetting after the lovers reunite in Surinam. and fly with her to some unknown World. and yet curious past. in turn. such forward women who die at the hands of male tyrants. (however Horrid it at first appear’d to us all) when we had heard his reasons. actual events (18). we thought it Brave and Just” (60). a martyrdom brought about by their attempts to challenge patriarchal structures. Imoinda embodied Catherine Molineux 475 . Behn’s works centralize. Oroonoko. who never heard [their] Story” foreshadows. that. as some Whigs argued. generally to critique.

Not long after.—I am arm’d against their worst Efforts ——. and a languishing voice. her forgetfulness raises competing antiheroic and anti-romantic perspectives on their tale. offer a central commentary on authorial voice: the digressions and lacunae. Pride pulls him out of despair: to “adorn” Jamoan. He is unwilling to be taken passively.this form of self-martyring female virtue. if we must die. when the prince again fails to remain true in his grief. though. on a Couch. —Come. as he told Imoinda he would. to wait his lingering Pleasure. with a deep Sigh. that young Victor. he had not the Constancy of Grief to that Degree. Love-sick Slave. narrative gaps and moments of “forgetting” refract the compositional process. for I know they will tell me. as to make him insensible of the Danger of his Army. Imoinda is the final “sacrific[e]” to this masculine conflict (61). Instead of killing himself. and ’twill be more like Oroonoko to encounter him at an Army’s Head. his lust for revenge makes him vulnerable to Byam’s machinations and leads to his dishonorable death by dismemberment. let us meet Death the noblest Way. averse to an ignoble death as a “Love-sick Slave” (29). or be tamely taken by an Enemy. opposing the Torrent of a conquering Foe.”60 Although the narrator celebrates Oroonoko’s heroism and. These moments. Oroonoko revokes his resolution to die: [I]n spite of all his Resolutions. is unthinkable. to adorn the triumphs of Jamoan. as well as the long digressions that draw attention to themselves. but in Behn’s works it is often a foil to female dissembling. Vernon Guy Dickson argues that Oroonoko’s return to his warrior persona reinstitutes “civil order. with only his pipe of tobacco left as his last symbol of proto-existential defiance. than lazily. who has already “enter’d” beyond acceptable limits.59 This scene foreshadows the novella’s closing events. praises Imoinda’s romantic love. prior to her death. to a great extent. when the African king’s messenger arrives to dissemble her sale into slavery as her death: “Oroonoko reply’d. Oroonoko’s desire for ennoblement overcomes his grief. and cry’d. (29) In contrast to Imoinda’s constancy. who already is enter’d beyond the Limits I had prescrib’d him. and die every Moment by a thousand wrecking Thoughts. As Dolors Altaba-Artal argues with regard to Behn’s nun novels. shape their own lives.” but it does so only through the relinquishment of his bonds to Imoinda. “certain women with wit and beauty influence men and.58 Its value becomes tenuous early in the story. and led a whining. the act of 476 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . and in that Instant he leap’d from his Couch. Imoinda is no more” (27). Such self-martyring virtue was one common form of female allegiance to the Great Man.

” but they have similar implications as sources of emulation. gets her into trouble (41). To distract the royal slaves from their subjugation. which were not pious tales of submissive young women (41). but never quite reveals. The narrator provides a gallant man with amenable examples that have. which charm .making the text. the narrator’s forgetfulness suggests. and nourished by the Histories. But the narrator’s tales. excellent Knowledge” to men of action (6). but surprisingly no one has connected these “Stories of Nuns” to the ones that Behn wrote. that her outward appearance is a mask. with the instructive inclusion of the woman who rebels unwisely. which we know are not. so “obliging” to Oroonoko. Within her tale. But if the prince’s motivations are clear. The storyteller’s dissembling power is given concrete form in the narrator’s colonial presence. for instance. these stories reappear as warnings of the dangers of mimetic desire. and great Men. like theirs. a moment in which personal interests obtrude. overtly challenging patriarchy and losing the cloister as an available retreat. such forgetfulness was a misstep in outward compliance. these tales appear to be a “gendered division of narrative goods. “forg[ets] that Reverence that was due to the Mistress of a King” and divulges his resistance to the king (23). But the narrator’s tales of the “Romans” recall Hobbes’s contention that the Civil War had resulted from young men educating themselves in the “rebellious principles” available in ancient history. thereby destabilizing but not entirely abrogating her self-representation as a supporter of the royal slaves. . or Fictions of Gallant persons.61 Oroonoko. inspired heroic actions. should provide “Knowledge.65 On the surface. but their instructional value Catherine Molineux 477 . she “entertain[s]” the prince with “the Lives of the Romans. in the past.”64 As Oroonoko accurately reproduces Hannibal’s failed attempt at escape. echo the prince’s own persuasion of a courtier to “be of his Party” by saying “so many obliging things” (20). Oroonoko’s invocation of “Stories of Nuns” highlights Imoinda’s affinity to Behn’s other heroines as her stubbornness. these stories provide the slaves with moral exemplars. him to [her] Company” and tells Imoinda “Stories of Nuns” (41). translating (through this novel form of female political empowerment) an ability to control how a story is understood into an ability to shape the story itself. Stories-within-astory. Similarly.63 He remarked that vainglory “consisteth in the feigning or supposing of abilities in our selves. Rebellious women populate Behn’s nun stories. much as Behn herself did in her eulogies to the Stuart kings. the narrator’s stories introduce Imoinda to Christianity. [and] is most incident to young men. as Behn’s dedication explains. .62 Such tales.

through the “Reputation of [her] Pen. Oroonoko emphasizes how women. and thus the appeal of the narrator who tells his story. but also on nostalgia for an age before the loss of innocence. would have depended not only on the fashion for African slaves in Stuart London. and Behn thought that the warrior prince would.”67 Behn’s incomplete ownership of the tale. Oroonoko’s lingering appeal. pretends to entertain and is entertained by the prince. Srinivas Aravamudan has read this representation as a political satire of prominent aristocratic women who owned slaves in the Stuart court. The “visible power” of Oroonoko’s aristocracy is brought repeatedly into view. like the slaver who was Oroonoko’s friend. could use the instability of sovereignty and political subjectivity to reinterpret the nature and power of their own passivity. Like the imperfectly eponymous river. masked by her benevolent. but the novella leaves significant tensions unresolved. whose absence was expected from the political arena. her authorial relationship to her dissembling narrative pose. of kings. they trouble any final evaluation of the narrator’s character. she also played with a skeptic’s retirement into privacy. established by her use of a young female narrator.becomes ambiguous when the slaves emulate them (a failure again potentially hidden in the construction of racial difference). inviting the “Critical Reader [to] judge as he pleases” (7). As she offered her king a sophisticated critique of his troubles. however. she leaves on a ship carrying the royal slaves’ stories.” “survive to all Ages” (65). Oroonoko held a mythical value in an age of great unrest.66 A strategic performativity (or unreliability) characterizes Oroonoko’s narrator. ****** 478 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . and pious persona. The narration’s ruptures and ambiguities highlight the contingencies of representation and the storyteller’s political power. reinforces this move as it obscures. She. modeling a novel form of female subjectivity in a suggestive autobiographical reflection of a female poet-playwright who clearly thought of herself as a maker. but the failure of romance in the narrator’s story is also the failure of royalism.68 In so doing. and so destroying oneself. educational. finally. this novella may illuminate how the crisis of political obligation shaped Behn’s own relationship with the Stuart kings. or at least dresser. enacting the representational crisis that lies at the heart of this exotic tale. only to sail to England with a narrative ready for sale on the literary market. Akin to the slaver. In so doing. suggesting that holding “strong beliefs about the morality or legal rightness of any course of action was to risk taking part in the conflict.

but new configurations of political subjectivity were emerging in the midst of this uncertainty. Hidden in the illegibility of the exotic was the uncertainty of appearance in this new world. but a few pages later the narrator tells the reader that many “little Accidents” have been omitted (8). intensified in the encounter with foreign sovereignties and colonial settlements. Such an appeal to exoticism might appear to authorize her tale. in all things.” but the presumption is that the metropolitan reader. a move that. This interpretive multiplicity is a product of a text that stages at the narrative and metalinguistic level the instability of signification. because New and Strange” (7). for Behn. but it also offered a philosophical meditation on the problems with establishing new foundations for sovereignty and assent. at least. new and strange.” may find them “tedious and heavy” (8). both contributed to and engaged the political unrest of late seventeenthcentury England. in novel ways. where History was scarce. and it certainly provided a dominant royalist perspective on colonial corruption. he should remember that “these Countries do. The result. and thus how the book. Trying to resolve Oroonoko’s inconsistencies and ambiguities by making them a fixed reflection of party politics occludes the significance of the text’s instability. Awareness of the contrivances of power. like the natural/fabricated sources of sovereignty.In her dedication. and Adventures very rare. These incidents were. “in a World where he finds Diversions for every Minute. royalist propagandist). The cumulative effect of these frequent reversals. Catherine Molineux 479 . Oroonoko may well have warned James II about the destructive consequences of his actions. the narrator says. Those who buy into the “Romantick. that they produce unconceivable Wonders. is a textual vacillation that raises epistemological questions about representational truth. they appear so to us. Behn remarked to Lord Maitland that if he found anything “Romantick” about her story. allowed for a new consciousness of the people’s role in its construction. feminist playwright to a conservative. was a contradictory engagement with fundamental philosophical concepts of political association that opens Oroonoko to multiple political interpretations (visible in the range of modern representations of Behn—from a free-thinking. reproduces the political crisis of Behn’s age by continually undermining the reader’s ability to assign value. are deluded by the novella’s novelty. Behn’s world was changing: traditional forms of trust and allegiance were disintegrating and older ideas about political obligation were becoming untenable. “pleasant to us. so far difer from ours. which are licensed by the colonial encounter.” Behn warned.

but it is not. an exotic fiction that could lead to a Fall. The illegibility of the exotic. Oroonoko questions the greed and violence underpinning an emerging imperial age. allowed her to collapse this Atlantic periphery of civil war into the revolutionary Isles. and royal pasts under the subtitle.69 The overlaying and entangling of various histories—colonial pasts. unambiguously committed to feudal values or critical of self-interest. romantic or anti-romantic—his story provides. literal and figurative sites of sovereignty. “The History of the Royal Slave”—reveals the complexity of early modern English political thought and illuminates how colonial peripheries became. texts such as Oroonoko.As globalization unsettles our own geographical imagination of the territorial nation-state. how ambiguities in the nature of man rendered moral 480 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . while retreating from its implications. forcing them to participate in the moral construction of authority. domestic pasts. Behn’s past. By relinquishing judgment. Behn invited participation in the practice of ethics. but whether Oroonoko is a false gift. the narrator’s stories to the royal slaves model Behn’s relationship to her readers: she imparts a moral exemplar that she hopes will inspire emulation. and status. precisely captured in Behn’s rhetorical lack of commitment to the idea of exoticism. should be brought into clearer constellation with the more canonical political texts that have provided scholars with their primary accounts of the reconfiguration of English sovereignty in the decades following civil war. through their analogical and organic connection to the metropole. His objectified worth can be realized only when a choice is made about which narrative—the heroic or antiheroic. Doing so allows her to explore the failures of ideas about sovereignty and subjectivity by encoding them in and finding them newly illuminated by colonial and Atlantic iterations. inflecting those ideas about political association with Atlantic contestations of race. The novella might inspire imitation of royalist virtues or warn against their delusion. As the narrator dresses up people and places in this tale (including herself). gender. Writ small. which refract the entanglement of imperial and domestic spaces in the seventeenth century. while consistently drawing attention to the material and literary technologies of representation. she gave her readers a choice about what to believe. as other scholars have argued. and corrupt Atlantic world. but she also staged how individual appetites for conquest and dominion often overrode conscience.70 Behn interrogates the very instability of monarchical discourses through her representation of a violent. could only be decided in the experience of assent to his embodied values. unstable.

subjugated to the invading Dutch. Behn remained in the midst of the unsettling. Indeed. Oroonoko is set before the Dutch invasion and conquest of English Surinam in 1667. offering Surinam’s demise as a concrete outcome of such uncertainty in the terms of political association. The violent and divided planter class that thwarts the royal slaves’ quest for freedom ends up. Scholars who have read Oroonoko as James II have seen in this text a warning to the king of his troubles in 1688. banish’d and dispers’d all those that were capable” (21). Behn’s narrator laments Oroonoko’s “misfortune” to “fall in an obscure world. that afforded only a female pen to celebrate his fame” (21). It is hard not to connect this tale to its publication in July. it uses past colonial fortunes to forecast the future of England’s growing political troubles in 1688.72 On the other hand. invokes contemporary perceptions of the importance of Caribbean colonization to monarchical power. This endpoint. from this entangled perspective.judgments unstable. with her exotic literary and material goods in tow. immediately after his Time. But even if Behn did not have that parallel in mind. making this invasion an endpoint for the society she describes. She thinks his fame would have “liv’d from others endeavours. the failure of the black prince Catherine Molineux 481 . and Swearing. but written and published after it. But if it is understood not as royalist propaganda but as a philosophical exploration of the crisis of political obligation. Recasting this colonial past as a narrative future in 1688 allows the novella to function as a potential warning. offering the narrative endpoint in her narrator’s own extrication from political unrest.”71 Rather than take this theory of the fictions of sovereignty to their Hobbesian or Miltonic conclusions. on the one hand. who. had not kill’d. in this narrative future. perhaps most notably John Milton. sought to cultivate equitable perspectives among readers. and how knowledge of human pride allowed those (including women) with the skills of representation to direct and shape the reception of power. If we return. took that country. when England faced the impending arrival of the Dutch William III. If other Stuart writers of fiction. pandering to James II’s attempts to centralize the empire and narrating domestic fears of a weakened state through the loss of control over colonial possessions. Behn’s Atlantic exploration of the uncertainty that haunted sovereignty and assent elaborates on her perception of her “Age” as one “of Lying. to Oroonoko’s problematic embodiment of sovereignty. a contemporary political scene again violently divided. Peaching. her narrator’s timely departure from English Surinam hints at her own struggles to navigate. if the Dutch. the warning was both broader and more fundamental.

and mapped the transition from a sovereignty founded on love to one based in the unstable expression of interest. Leviathan (1651). Emily C. That subtle. That the novella remains one of the most important and complex narrations of seventeenth-century English colonialism is apparent both in this wealth of critical commentary and in its broad adoption in undergraduate courses on empire and slavery. exposes tensions in imperial ideologies based on racial assimilation. and the anonymous reviewer for ELH for their helpful comments on previous drafts. William Caferro. Moran. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. and gender. James Epstein. Press. Vanderbilt University notes The author would like to thank Katherine Crawford. For general overviews. Nacol. space. 1  Thomas Hobbes. Iwaniszaw. 1991). Behn’s quasi-fictional exploration of this periphery of civil warfare unsettled temporal. I have argued elsewhere that Oroonoko. As Behn denied Oroonoko the representational value of sovereignty. Daniel Usner. Katherine D. class. and exotica. as well as to its engagement with ideas about truth. ed. the failure of affective ties suggests that colonial plantation regimes provided both a dystopian mirror for a royalist imagination of the binding nature of political attachments and a new geography of the uncertainties of sovereignty. for Behn. 2  Scholars have long debated the politics of Oroonoko. but key shift opens up new questions about how racialized and Atlantic constructions of sovereignty were becoming constitutive of English sovereignty in the late seventeenth century. rather than an imposition of modern uncertainty about the historical meanings of blackness in late Stuart England. 117.to be sovereign becomes a commentary produced by the text. by exploring the limits of enslavement. see Susan B. Instigated by and thought through the encounter with African and Native American polities and the turn to slave-based colonization. not an assumption deriving from our interpretive framework. geographical. gender.73 That Oroonoko’s blackness figures. class. she registered the rising reliance on black slavery within the empire. Teresa Goddu. but the fictions of sovereignty illuminated by Oroonoko’s blackness invoke a broader question about how to establish a “visible power” in this New World. and racial distinctions. though attention has also turned to its Atlantic economies of race. The crisis of representation provoked by this unsettling demonstrates how the Atlantic world came to be part of and to shape the new political world of late seventeenth-century England. mobilized contemporary critiques of the instability of authority based on coercion. while making his experience of enslavement and rebellion a site of sovereignty. introduction 482 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Mary Terrall. It becomes a creative act.

Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. and Gordon J. perhaps because of the novella’s explicit claims to ethnographic truth. Taming the Leviathan: The Reception of the Political and Religious Ideas of Thomas Hobbes in England. W. See Visconsi. 1640–1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. and Mary Ann O’Donnell. Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner. David Lee Miller and others (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. 2007). Sovereignty and the Sword: Harrington. J. Jonathan Scott. 4  Seventeenth. 5  For a recent and provocative approach. J. 1993). Guffey and Andrew Wright (Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. 1994). ed. 2004). see also Margaret W.” Essays in Criticism 52 (2002): 1–22. and Scholarly Practice: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. eds. ed.and eighteenth-century readers failed to comment in print on Oroonoko’s potential allegory of the Glorious Revolution. Among the many other works on this protracted political crisis. 3–41. xi–xxi. Rachel Weil. 2007). Jon Parkin. Press. Joanna Lipking (London: W. Subsequent scholars toned down readings of the novella as a direct political allegory of the Glorious Revolution.to Oroonoko: Adaptations and Offshoots. or the fact that its plagued prince was a black African. “Race. A. Commerce. Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. and Mixed Government in the English Civil Wars (Oxford: Oxford Univ. The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. its female authorship. ed. Univ. 1987) and Virtue. 12. Criticism. 151–189. 1975). Press. Press. 1640–1661 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. and History: Essays on Political Thought and History. Iwaniszaw (Aldershot: Ashgate. Gender. 1977). 1997). 1640–1674 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Lines of Equity: Literature and the Origins of Law in Later Stuart England (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. 2006). Press. 3  Aphra Behn. Hereafter cited parenthetically by page number. Political Passions: Gender. The Secret Life of Aphra Behn (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. see Janet Todd. A. Arihiro Fukuda. For the reception of Oroonoko. Los Angeles. Derek Hughes. England’s Troubles: Seventeenth-Century English Political Instability in European Context (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 2000). Guffey opened this line of argument by suggesting Oroonoko’s enslavement narrated the disempowerment of James II.” in The Production of English Renaissance Culture. The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution. Press. 1992). Press. “The Degenerate Race: English Catherine Molineux 483 . Victoria Kahn. 1975). Historical Backgrounds. Schochet. Ferguson. Press. A. Pincus. 1974. G. Revolution Principles: The Politics of Party. The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: the Church of England and its Enemies. see Elliott Visconsi. 2000). esp. I. of California. Wayward Contracts: The Crisis of Political Obligation in England. 178n55. Oroonoko: An Authoritative Text. Press. 38. Norton. P. the Family and Political Argument in England. 1999). Press. 1660–1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.. 2009). ed. Champion. 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven: Yale Univ.. 1689–1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. ed. Aphra Behn: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources (Aldershot: Ashgate. Patriarchalism in Political Thought: The Authoritarian Family and Political Speculation and Attitudes Especially in SeventeenthCentury England (New York: Basic Books. 2004). Press. Pocock. Hobbes. May 11. J. Press. 1680–1714 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. 6  See George Guffey. 1985). see Steven C. Kenyon. “News from the New World: Miscegenous Romance in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and The Widow Ranter. Press. 2008). “Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko: Occasion and Accomplishment. Press. Carla Gardina Pestana.” in Two English Novelists. 1997). Aphra Behn and Anthony Trollope: Papers Read at a Clark Library Seminar. though recent publications have moved back toward Guffey’s position. Press.

” Journal of Narrative Theory 36. 1999). of California Press. 157–82. Press. Press. 86–100. 1999). justice. introduction to Lines of Equity. 8  Lauren Benton. 39–45. Kroll. the Lord Willoughby. The Royal Slave. A Search for Sovereignty. ed. Braddick. A Letter sent from Syrranam. James Muldoon. 29–70. “Degenerate Race. Oroonoko. See also William Byam. Colonialism in Question: Theory. 12  Oroonoko appeared in the midst of the warming-pan scandal. . 3. which heightened anxiety about women’s ability to manipulate political power. 15  On the republication of Civil War tracts. 581.” Studies in English Literature. esp. A briefe relation of the late horrid rebellion acted in the island Barbadas. 1745). Richard Kroll. See Guffey. B.1550–1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 1500–1900 34. Slavery. [William] Smith. and History. Knowledge. 13  See Visconsi.” Eighteenth-Century-Fiction 8. Articles of agreements made and concluded the 11th day of January 1651 (London. 14  For a discussion of Behn’s possible visit to Surinam. 11  A Natural History of Nevis and the rest of the English Leeward Caribee Islands in America . 1994). Virtue. See also N. Laura Brown. . 2000). 180–228. Catherine Gallagher. 1–34 (33). Empire and Order: The Concept of Empire. and Tobacco in English Colonialism. Foster. 7. ed. 1670–1820 (Berkeley: Univ. Martin’s. . see Visconsi. Todd. “Surveying ‘The Map of Slavery’ in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.3 (Fall 2006): 314–40. J. Mason (Cambridge. State Formation in Early Modern England. Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency.4 (1996): 437–52. (London. Ten matters worthy of note (London. see also Pestana. Lord Willoughby of Parham. Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace. 1647). 280. “‘Tales of Love and Gallantry’: the Politics of Oroonoko. see Todd. 1998). or.” South Atlantic Review 63. Press. Gallagher (Boston: Bedford/St. see also Adam Sills. to his Excellency. 4. c. see Pocock.3 (Summer 1994): 491–506. Janet Todd (New York: St. . A charge consisting of severall heads (London. “Violence and Awe: The Foundations of Government in Aphra Behn’s New World Settings. and government” in English society. 1650). Mr. 10  For Oroonoko’s Atlantic geography. 1664). Mr. see Catherine Gallagher. and M. Iwanisziw. John’s at Nevis . “Royalism and Honor in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. 15. A brief relation of the beginning and ending of the troubles of the Barbados (1653). commited on the person of His Excellency Francis. 800–1800 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Commerce. introduction to Behn. 1999). Secret Life. 9  For the legal geographies of empire. in Eleven Letters from the Revd. 100.. 7  Srinivas Aravamudan. 2009). 1688–1804 (Durham: Duke Univ.4 (December 2004): 573-605. Henry Adis. Frederick Cooper. see also 4. 2000).” ELH 69 (2002): 673–701. On fictional or quasi-fictional writings that borrowed imperial spaces to “sketch out etiologies of law. in the West Indies (London.” Huntington Library Quarterly 67. . 1400–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 18  That Willoughby later lost part of his hand to a disgruntled Surinam colonist undoubtedly deepened this sentiment.” in Aphra Behn. 1642). A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires. 20. Captain General 484 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Martin’s Press.Barbarism in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and The Widow Ranter. An Exact Relation of the Most Execrable Attempts of John Allin. “Behn’s Novel Investment in Oroonoko: Kingship. 16  See A. Weil.2 (Spring 1998): 75–98. The Critical Fortunes of Aphra Behn (Columbia: Camden House. Anita Pacheco. .” 697. sometime Rector of St. 1652). “The Romance of Empire: Oroonoko and the Trade in Slaves. esp. see Benton. To Revd. 65. and Richard Frohock. History (Berkeley: Univ. 17  See Pincus. 3–25. of California Press. 2005).

introduction to Oroonoko. “The Rapture of Motion: James Harrington’s Republicanism. Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Mastery. Faces of Perfect Ebony. 1627–1660 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. and Gender: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Tyranny. but related reading of Oroonoko’s exceptional blackness as a racial fantasy produced by the metropolitan market for black servants. 2004). Behn builds into the story the failure of idealistic visions of benevolence so critical to metropolitan justifications for slavery in the late seventeenth century. Larry Gragg. Versions of Blackness: Key Texts on Slavery from the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pestana. of North Carolina Press. England’s Troubles. 282. April 1737. “The Romance of Empire. 1957). 1665). 2007). Margaret W. Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker (New York: Routledge. &c. David E. see David Armitage.” New Literary History 23. see Christopher L. On the degeneracy of planters. 2003). Catherine Molineux 485 . Green. Press. of North Carolina Press. Carl and Roberta Bridenbaugh. see Moira Ferguson. Class. and K. Hoegberg. Englishmen Transplanted: The English Colonization of Barbados. On the metropolitan discussion of Caribbean racial demography. Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean (Lawrence: Univ. 1450–1680 (Chapel Hill: Univ. Brown. 177–85. 138. but I have pointed out that Oroonoko does highlight tensions in ideologies of mastery that sustained the emerging imperial institution of slavery. and all of the Caribbey-Islands and Our Lord Proprietor (London. “Race. 21  For concerns about the enslavement of African elite. 139–63. 57–59. 61–80. “The Other Problem with Women: Reproduction and Slave Culture in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Faces of Perfect Ebony. of North Carolina Press. See also Jennifer L. and Charlotte Sussman. 2007). Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (Chapel Hill: Univ. with regard to their Trade.” 51.” in Women. 22  Kahn.3 (1995): 239–58. Marietta Morrissey. 19  On Caribbean colonization and its relevance to perceptions of domestic stability. and Trevor Burnard. For a different. Heidi Hutner (Charlottesville: Univ. 2004). 1624–1690 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. Iwanisziw.” in Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain. Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World. ed. Lines of Equity. “Caesar’s Toils: Allusion and Rebellion in Oroonoko. 34. See Molineux. and Criticism. Press. 1994). Press.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 7. Press. Brown. 215. The Royal African Company (London: Longmans. 589. By integrating perceptions of planter immorality. and Slaves. Ferguson. Jonathan Scott. 2012). 18–60. 1993). See also Scott. and Stuart B. 1989). see Molineux. Morgan. L. G. Visconsi. Press. 1640–1700 (Chapel Hill: Univ.” Gentleman’s Magazine. Kroll. Press of Kansas.. and Derek Hughes. Chapman & Hall. of Virginia Press. 209–24. 2000). “Oroonoko: Birth of a Paradigm. Davies. Caribbean Exchanges: Slavery and the Transformation of English Society. ed. 477. 2004). Schwartz. 330. “Juggling the Categories of Race. see also Catherine Molineux. and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill: Univ. Theory. Susan Dwyer Amussen. 110–45. See also Parkin. xiii. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: Univ. Many scholars have argued that Behn did not criticize the institution of slavery. 125–45.of the Continent of Guiana. 212–33. and Fukuda.” in Rereading Aphra Behn: History. 20  “Of the ill State of our Sugar Colonies. 241. 1972). Wayward Contracts. No Peace Beyond the Line: the English in the Caribbean.2 (Spring 1992): 339–59. 2006). of North Carolina Press. The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.” and Writing in the Early Modern Period.

(London: J. Wayward Contracts. 34  For Hobbesian readings of Behn’s novella. 191–97. Edward G. Julian H. see Kroll. Kroll. The Lucky Mistake a New Novel (London: R. Paul Slack and Daniel Wolffe eds. 117. Press. 28  Behn. Hobbes (London: J. 1689).. 41. . and Benton.On absences of de facto authority. 20. Franklin (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 29  Behn. On Sovereignty: Four Chapters from the Six Books of the Commonwealth. 56. 32  Kroll. line 34. An acco[un]t of the unavoidable charge and the meanes to prevent it with safely in case of a warr with France w[hi]ch otherwise the nation must be at in sending forces to the Island of Barbadoes for its security w[hi] ch cannot be less then 2000 men if they resolve to preserve the same. 40  See Parkin. 1759). Wayward Contracts. 254. 56. 1997). see Kahn. 57. Edward Blackmore. 583. . against the rebels of Ireland (London. 2:485. 1642). Robert Rich.” 354. see esp. and Moira Ferguson. trans. The Amorous Prince. Thomas Otway. 164. A Comedy (London: Thomas Dring. on which island (besides its own importance) depends the safety of the Leward Islands and consequently the sugar trade to the kingdom of England (1650–1666). Amorous Prince. Articles of agreements made and concluded the 11th day of January. Lines of Equity. See Kahn. 1652). 1649). Concerning the Militia (London. J.” Representations 68 (Fall 1999): 84–107. whose names are subscribed (London. and the commissioners in the behalfe of the common-wealth of England . 1651 by and between the Commissioners of the . Public Duty and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Oxford Univ. and his earnest desires to spend the rest of his dayes in the service of the Parliament. 31  Bernard de Fontenelle. Tonson. A Discovery of New Worlds. see Jonathan Goldberg. esp. Aphra Behn (London: Will Canning.” in John Morrell. 29–56. “Hobbes 23  24  486 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . 287–89. . Desiring Women Writing: English Renaissance Examples (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Amorous Prince. Nine Speciall Passages. 276–77. Castigations of Mr. Bentley. . 583. Lord Willoughy of Parrham . “Cases of Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England. Visconsi. Andrew. The humble remonstrance of Sr. 1642). 39  Kahn. 42–72. A Charge Consisting of Severall Heads (London. The Declaration and Protestation of Divers the Knights. 29 and 44–45. . 1682). 155–84. The City-Heiress (London. trans. . Amorous Prince. The Genuine Remains in the Verse and Prose of Mr. Francis VVilloughby knight therein setting forth his faithfull services. 1671). 33  On the homoerotics of Oroonoko’s relationship with his overseer. For Willoughby’s political career. 519. Edward Husbands and John Frank. 212. 36  Kroll. prologue to Behn. Samuel Butler. Crook. (London. esp. Earl of Warwick. “The Duty to Love: Passion and Obligation in Early Modern Political Theory. and R. 58. and others of the foresaid county. 37  Samuel Butler. Freeholders. Press. see Francis Willoughby. 57. Francis Coles. Tonson. See also Jean Bodin. 1992). 1993). 25  Behn. 38  John Bramhall. 2 vol. 26  Behn. 30  On affective ties. Keith Thomas. 589. his many sufferings. Press. 1647). See also Parkin. Gentry. 35  Hobbes. or the Curious Husband. 6–7 and 57–80. 1657). 1688). “Oroonoko: Birth of a Paradigm. 27  Behn. 576.

231–232. 139.3 (2001): 1–19. See also Hobbes. see Aravamudan. “Aphra Behn’s The City Heiress: Feminism and the Dynamics of Popular Success on the Late Seventeenth-Century Stage.” EighteenthCentury Life 25. and Exemplarity in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. 17. 1991). 225. 44  See Sills. 14.” The Historical Journal 24.2 (1981): 297–321. 134–251. “‘Frightful Spectacles of a Mangled King’: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and Narration through Theater. and Ken Macmillan.3 (Summer 2007): 583. 180. John Locke and America: the Defence of English Colonialism (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Material Culture. Noel Malcolm. 45  Benton.’” 320. Wayward Contracts. 42  Studies of Hobbes and Locke have stressed their involvement in nascent colonization projects in Virginia and South Carolina. 49  Although beyond the scope of this article. 52  Compare Gallagher. See Parkin. 47  For debates about the “natural. see Alison Conway. 13.” 191. The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale Univ. Barbara Arneil. Lines of Equity. see Sills. Sovereignty and Possession in the English New World: The Legal Foundations of Empire. 46  Compare L. 1661). See also Nicholas Thomas. Engraving the Savage: The New World and Techniques of Civilization (Minneapolis: Univ. 84–86. Martin’s Press. 90. see Kahn. this formulation of interiority might be brought into productive relationship with theories of the emergence of a modern self.on Conscience Within the Law and Without. esp. Entangled Objects: Exchange.2 (June 1999): 203–25. 54  Compare the similarly qualified adoration of subjects in the royalist Sir Percy Herbert’s The Princess Cloria (London. 53  For the narrator’s physical immersion in the events. For anxieties about prelapsarian visions of native settlements. see Marta Figlerowicz. see Michael Gaudio. 55  On the importance of romance as a genre in post-Civil War royalist writings. esp. as well as the importance of travel literature to their differing conceptions of the state of nature. 1–43. 50  Sills. “Hobbes. Gallagher. 41  Parkin. and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. “Surveying ‘The Map of Slavery. Sandys. 8–9. 229–230.” Studies in English Literature. and the Virginia Company. 59  Vernon Guy Dickson. Wayward Contracts. 2004). 7–8. 2006). Kahn. For motifs of prostitution in Oroonoko. See also Ananta Charana Sukla. 179. “The Protestant Cause and a Protestant Whore: Aphra Behn’s Love-letters. 157. 51  Visconsi. Wayward Contracts. 58  For Behn’s critique of such constructions of female virtue. “Surveying ‘The ‘Map of Slavery. “Truth. 1576–1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. see Robert Markley. Press. 110. 56  For this obscuration. Nobody’s Story.” Comparative Drama 41.” New Literary History 39 (2008): 321–34. 2001). “Surveying ‘The Map of Slavery. 51. Catherine Molineux 487 . 1988). 89–90.’” 329. of Minnesota Press. Compare Dror Wahrman.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 32. 57  For Behn’s identification with the figure of the prostitute. 203. Jacqueline Pearson. 48  Hobbes.” see Parkin. “The Romance of Empire. The Prostituted Muse: Images of Women and Women Dramatists 1642–1737 (New York: St. Wonder. Press. 1500–1900 47.’” 320–21. 2008). Nobody’s Story. 163–66. Brown. 43  See Kahn. Art and Representation: Contributions to Contemporary Aesthetics (Westport: Praeger. 1996).2 (2007): 141–66.

Press.” in Aphra Behn. or. Rereading Aphra Behn. for example. Line of Equity.4 (December 1992). 60  488 False Gifts/Exotic Fictions . Brown. Sir Timothy Treat-all (London: D.” Theory and Society 28 (1999): 39–78. Backscheider and John J. 401. The Secret Life of Aphra Behn. 73  On the limits of enslavement. T. Class. 37. Press. Hutner. 1996). The Theatre of Aphra Behn (Basingstoke: Palgrave. of Pennsylvania Press. Janet Todd and Derek Hughes. eds. see Visconsi. 63  Hobbes. 70  Compare Pacheco. Gallagher. 2004). “Aphra Behn’s The City Heiress”.Altaba-Artal. see Vincent Carretta. poet. which was published shortly after Oroonoko in 1689. and Gender. See also Visconsi. 66  See Aravamudan. Faces of Perfect Ebony. as a playwright. See Markley. The Fair Vow-Breaker. 1. Nobody’s Story. 146–49. Altaba-Artal. 2000). and H. Aphra Behn’s Afterlife (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Champion.” 209–24. The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. 64  Hobbes. “Beyond State-Centrism? Space. 491–506. and Pearson. 72  On this formulation of fear. The Prostituted Muse. An acco[un]t of the unavoidable charge. Popular Fiction by Women. Psychology. 162. see Molineux. Benskin. see. 69  On globalization and its destabilization of spatial understandings of the state.. 3v. 226.” International Studies Quarterly 36. see Neil Brenner. 154–56. Aphra Behn’s English Feminism. and novelist. Territoriality. Derek Hughes. Margaret Ferguson. 1660–1730: An Anthology (Oxford: Oxford Univ. and Hobbes. 1983). 61–80.” 215. with the politics of sexuality and with women’s struggle during the Restoration to formalize their participation in the emerging public sphere has been a subject of scholarly research for some time. See also Todd. 1682). and Gender. Richetti. and Geographic Scale in Globalization Studies. 2001). 62  Compare Margaret Ferguson. Secret Life and Aphra Behn Studies. 111–42. 67  Michael Loriaux. “The Realists and Saint Augustine: Skepticism. and Pearson. “Juggling the Categories of Race. 41–42. 42. xiii. Lines of Equity. Class. 68  Behn’s engagement. Jane Spencer. See Paula R. eds. and Moral Action in International Relations Thought. 34. Todd. The Snarling Muse: Verbal and Visual Political Satire from Pope to Churchill (Philadelphia: Univ. 29–70. “Juggling the Categories of Race. dedication to The City-Heiress: Or. On Milton. 61  On gaps and innuendos in Augustan political satire.. Press. Rhodes. 71  Behn. 65  Notably Isabella in Behn’s The History of the Nun. “Gender and Narrative in the Fiction of Aphra Behn.

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