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‘There Is All Africa [. . .] Within Us’: Language, Generation And Alchemy In Browne’s Explication Of Blackness

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Chapter Summary

This chapter illustrates how Thomas Browne?s use of figurative language to contest the two following commonly perceived notions ? firstly, that blackness results from heliotropic causes; and secondly, that blackness is a divine curse ?derived unto them from Cham, upon whom it was inflicted for discovering the nakednesse of Noah? (1.518) ? complicates, yet retains, the early modern European commonplace notion of blackness as deriving from an original white identity. The chapter also shows that Browne?s discussion of black skin as artifice, or something that may be ?procured?, positions blackness within theories of art and nature; the imagination and generation; and thus interlinks with his more extended focus on alchemy and the materiality of blackness in the ?Digression concerning Blacknesse?.

Keywords: alchemical language; black skin; Thomas Browne



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