Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Alan Vardy

Committee Members

Alexander Schlutz

Barbara Webb

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Black Romanticism, Romanticism, Enlightenment philosophy, Transatlantic Studies, Postcolonial theory


Kingdoms Becoming emphasizes the profound impact that biblical prophecy, the slave trade, and the American Revolution had on Romanticism, Black nationalism, and horizontal transnationalism. Whereas current scholarship identifies the French Revolution as the seismic shift that inspired British Romanticism and caused a resurgence in prophetic enthusiasm, the American Revolution represents the advent of Black Romanticism and inchoate Black nationalism; this cataclysmic event introduced Afro-British identity, Black Romantic prophecy, and Black nationalist sentiment to the English nation. While many scholars have underscored the ways in which the abolitionist movement informed both British and Black Romanticism and sparked a transnational human-rights movement, literary critics have not fully considered the continuity of conceptual influence that links eighteenth-century slave narratives, British Romanticism, and twentieth-century African literature. In what follows, I explore the ways in which Black writers from different literary and historical periods have drawn upon Old Testament prophecy and the book of Revelations in order to effect national transformation. My study investigates the manner in which James Albert Gronniosaw, John Marrant, Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel T. Coleridge, and Robert Wedderburn, deploy the

Romantic prophetic and apocalyptic mode in order to negotiate national identity and citizenship, push back against imperialism and globalization, and clear a space for national ‘becoming’ and revolutionary transnationalism. Contemporary writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ben Okri, and Chinua Achebe have carried on this tradition of Black Romantic prophecy and Black nationalism by drawing upon not only biblical prophecy and precolonial African tradition, but also Toussaint L’ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Frantz Fanon’s eschatological visions of emancipation, decolonization, national transformation, and inti-imperialist transnationalism. Their prophecies and apocalyptic visions register a dialectic of Black romanticism and a dialectic of postcolonial romanticism, both of which engage the dialectics of the Enlightenment and the dialectics of romanticism, enabling ‘becoming’: perpetual national transformation. Tracing an intellectual and literary history of prophecy, imperialism, nationalism, and transnationalism, from the long eighteenth century and beyond, I shall outline a history of kingdoms ‘becoming’.