About

I am Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University – San Antonio. My scholarship includes the edited collection Henry David Thoreau in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and articles in ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies. I have received fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and the Thoreau Society and was part of the faculty for the 2017 NEH seminar “Living and Writing Deliberately: The Concord Landscapes and Legacy of Henry David Thoreau.”

I am currently at work on a book manuscript that addresses the literary production of radical abolitionists affiliated with the Free-Soil movement. “Free Soil Abolition: Slavery, Race, and Ecology in Antebellum America” presents a dramatically different portrait of the Free-Soil movement, one that foregrounds Black abolitionists and their critique of plantation slavery as ecologically destructive. In particular, I argue that figures such as Henry Bibb, Frederick Douglass, Lydia Maria Child, Martin Delany, and others, do not seek to simply restrict the Slave Power’s extension, as did white Free-Soilers, but instead to abolish anti-Black and anti-ecological structures that permeate antebellum society. Truly free soil, according to these figures, requires environmental justice and anti-racism. Attending to this archive, I suggest, significantly shifts contemporary understandings of both the Free-Soil movement and early American nature writing.

James S. Finley

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