This essay examines the unique positionality of abolitionist boycott literature, situated within the sentimental trends of antebellum literature while employing the sensationalist language of consumer interaction with morally compromised goods. Boycott literature ultimately introduced into the literary landscape a complicated view of what readers and writers increasingly saw as a suspect “free” market. Writers such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, and John Greenleaf Whittier imagined a world of goods haunted by the touch of enslaved laborers—goods that in turn haunted consumers. By parsing out the language of abolitionist boycott literature alongside its historical and material cultural moment, this essay argues that such literature posits a very literal and as yet unaccounted-for version of material relations that collapses the boundaries between consumer and producer, self and other, in ways that have horrific, haunting implications for market society, then and now.

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