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Annotated Uncle Toms Cabin [Hardcover]

Harriett Beecher Stowe , Louis Henry Gates , Robbins

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Book Description

Nov. 14 2006
Henry Louis Gates Jr. redefines Uncle Tom's Cabin with this seminal interpretation of the great American novel. Declared worthless and dehumanising by James Baldwin in 1949, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has lacked literary credibility for over fifty years. Now, in a ringing refutation of Baldwin, Gates demonstrates the literary transcendence of Harriet Beecher Stowe's masterpiece. First published in 1852, it galvanised the American public as no other work of fiction has ever done. The editors animate pre-American Civil War life with rich insights into the lives of slaves, abolitionists and the American reading public. Examining the lingering effects of the novel, they provide new insights into emerging race-relation, women's, gay and gender issues. With reproductions of rare prints, posters and photographs, this book is also one of the most thorough anthologies of Uncle Tom images available.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Nov. 14 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393059464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393059465
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 22.5 x 4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #536,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Variously beloved, denounced and dismissed over its 150-plus year history, Stowe's classic 1852 novel has been nothing if not productive. As Gates and Robbins note, the novel was vastly important in shaping American ideas and attitudes about race, but it also influenced the ways people thought about relationships and sexuality, and it continues to spur debate about the meanings of slavery and domesticity. Those are just some of the reasons it's an oft-assigned text in colleges, a market this beautifully annotated, wide-format edition addresses nicely. Joining seven other titles in Norton's handsomely produced "Annotated" series, the book offers 32 pages of color illustrations (not seen by PW), 150 b&w period illustrations, and a two-column format that has Stowe's text at left, and the annotations at right.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Celebrated when it was published in 1852 and later vilified, Uncle Tom's Cabin unquestionably changed American history and has had an enduring impact on American literature. In this annotated version of the novel, college professors Gates and Robbins explore changes in perspective on race, sex, and literature since the publication of the novel and its subsequent critique in the 1950s by James Baldwin. Throughout the book are illustrations of Uncle Tom across the years, including posters, postcards, woodcuts, and advertisements, all reflecting changing images of Uncle Tom and black Americans. Gates and Robbins explore images of heroism and subservience, contrasting the unctuous sentimentality of the novel with the implicit sexual tension between Uncle Tom and Little Eva, and explore the reason the novel remains so strong in the public imagination. Both new readers and those familiar with the work will appreciate the scholarly insight into the culture and social conventions that directed Stowe's writing. She sought to rouse abolitionist sentiments and, in the process, rendered Uncle Tom as no threat to white men. The editors ultimately applaud the novel as an enduring part of the American literary canon. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
71 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent background but read the novel first Nov. 23 2006
By Nils Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
John Updike reviews this new edition in the Nov 6 New Yorker, which is available online and well worth looking up. With 100 pages to go, Updike tired of the "irritable sniping from the sidelines" and switched to the standard Library of America edition.

A few months ago I reviewed the Penguin edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin here in Amazon. I suggested that if you decide to read the novel, skip the Introduction until you are done reading, because it gives away several plot points that you are better off encountering for yourself directly.

The same applies to this new annotated edition I think. The novel is not so difficult that you can't simply read it through on your own. I suggest doing that first, in a standard edition, then going through this edition. Otherwise you are having only a mediated experience of the work. In other words, let the work stand or fall on its own merits first, before exposing yourself to the opinions of others about it.

Having read the standard edition earlier I then read this annotated edition "inside out". That is, I read the introductory chapters and the annotations themselves straight through and used Stowe's text as the reference. This is a better approach I think than trying to read the text for the first time with the annotations nearby, where they do intrude and interrupt the flow of the story.

When reading the annotations this way though you do notice the inconsistency in voice that Updike mentions. Most are carefully neutral but you get an occasional first-person remark like "I confess my eyes glazed over" (gee that's helpful), then "again, our eyes glaze over" or "I recall Baldwin's...". Or "I am close to turning the page." then "...bore us silly", in the same annotation. As if the two editors read, and experienced eye-glaze, in unison? Since there seems to be two distinct voices at play it would have been useful for each annotation to have been initialed by its author, Gates or Robbins. I started trying to guess which editor wrote which annotation--I suspect Robbins provided the majority of the historical background while Gates did the Baldwins, the "I"s, and the trendier ones ("To the modern reader, Adolph is unmistakably 'metrosexual'"). This disparity in tone is also obvious between Gates' public interview (Boston Globe, Nov 12) in which he too-casually terms the work racist, and the less judgmental and more nuanced approach of the majority of the annotations themselves.

Getting past that though the annotations contain a wealth of useful background. The Biblical references, the distinctions among the slaves, the nuances of hypocrisy, the literary conventions, the sheer mechanics of the business, the conventional wisdom of the time about the races, all are excellent and thorough.

So, if you are going to read Uncle Tom's Cabin, do so first, then get this edition. It's an indispensable addition to the work.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a Surprise! Jan. 9 2008
By P. Burg - Published on Amazon.com
For so long I thought of Uncle Tom's Cabin as of great historical significance but of little literary value. Now, at age 50, I'm finding out that Harriet Beecher Stowe has written a wonderful book. I laughed so at the burlesque she writes, a la Shakespeare, when Mr. Haley orders his slaves to prepare the horses so that they can all search for Eliza. Unfortunately, the editors' notes missed a golden opportunity to comment on Beecher's skills. Instead, of course, they are quick to point out the stereotypes Beecher harks to. I do appreciate, however, that they note the themes of family and hearth. All in all, despite various disagreements I have with the columnal critics, I loved the format and the opportunity to compare artists' renderings in the historical illustrations. What a wonderful experience to discover this novel! How remarkable Harriet Stowe's accomplishment.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many notes Sept. 17 2007
By Victoria Vanderbilt - Published on Amazon.com
This is a moving, important, and captivating novel that easily stands on its own. The annotations, while helpful when expounding upon literal and historical references, are otherwise largely uninformative. As a previous reviewer noted, the tone is often quite personal and immaterial ( "my eyes glazed over" etc.) One passage being referred to as being eye-glazingly boring and superfluous was in fact quite brilliant and necessary for insight into one of the more complex and fully realized characters in the novel ( Augustine St. Clare). I don't feel the editors' job is to instruct the reader when to be disinterested. The editors also have a tendency to give away key plot points throughout, which did not endear them to this reader. They also fixate on odd themes that seem overindulgent, such as what they consider to be Shelby's oral fixations, which seem to me to be nothing more than the daily pastimes of a southern gentleman of leisure, i.e. eating and smoking. They can go out of their way to belabor points such as these.
The tone of some of the comments are also startlingly informal, as in "George is a little too talky here." Talky???????? That wouldn't even pass in an eighth grade English paper. Not to mention that George, at this point in the novel, is under great duress and making an impassioned stand for his belief and his survival. Talky. Harumph.
So skip the notes, but by all means devour the story. It is worth it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very heavy book April 4 2011
By Judith C. Kinney - Published on Amazon.com
Never having read UNCLE TOM'S CABIN or GONE WITH THE WIND, I thought I should do so while I'm still upright and checked out both at the local library along with J. G. Ballard's complete short stories. Together these three made a terrifically heavy bag to drag to my car. (I am no longer a young woman.)

I enjoy having notes on the pages to which they refer, especially when they are substantive, as those in UTC are. They make a nice break in the reading of a long and sometimes tedious text. Maybe someday someone will write the annotated GONE WITH THE WIND. There are surely many references in GWTW that must be lost on readers of today.

No one would argue that either of these books is a great work of literature, but each has its interest and, for the most part, keeps the reader turning the pages, if only to learn why so many people have read them over the years.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Annotations Unnecessary Aug. 16 2009
By D. Ordorica - Published on Amazon.com
I rated this specifically on the annotations, since the novel itself is widely available without them.

I liked the overall package - it's a truly beautiful book with many illustrations and pictures showing the way that Uncle Tom has been understood and portrayed in the United States since it's initial publication.

On the other hand, I found the annotations to be irritatingly most unhelpful. There were a handful of comments that truly brought insight, but most seemed to be commentary on style (see other reviews for examples), or definitions for obscure words, some of which I found to be, if not inaccurate, not really providing the nuances of the term. More often than not, I found the annotations to be irritating and to detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I had hoped that Skip Gates would share the depth of his academic and intellectual talents, but found a rather cursory approach was used instead.

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