Dr. Todd Thompson, assistant professor in the English Department’s Literature and Criticism program, was awarded a Pennsylvania Department of Education Keystone Grant, sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Institute. The title of the project is “Laughing Du-Plomacy: Frederick Douglass, Northern Racism, and Satiric Rhetoric.”
The grant will pay for a research trip to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where Thompson will conduct research by consulting the Frederick Douglass papers.
In this project, Thompson will be researching Douglass’s life and writings to ascertain if (and, if so, how) Douglass used satiric strategies—in his newspaper writings, public orations, and private correspondence—to chide white Northerners for their own hypocrisy and racism. Thompson wants to argue that the ambiguity inherent in complex irony, as well as the reassuring tone of humor, allowed Douglass to critique his Northern audience (to which he owed, in part, his continued freedom and his livelihood) without alienating them or ostracizing himself. The research will characterize such rhetoric as satiric du-plomacy in order to capture the multiple aims of such rhetoric.