Voices of the Fugitives: Runaway Slave Stories and Their Fictions of Self-Creation

Voices of the Fugitives: Runaway Slave Stories and Their Fictions of Self-Creation

Voices of the Fugitives: Runaway Slave Stories and Their Fictions of Self-Creation

Voices of the Fugitives: Runaway Slave Stories and Their Fictions of Self-Creation

Synopsis

African American fugitive slave narratives are receiving growing amounts of attention for their literary and historical value. This book examines the techniques the slave narrative writers used to authorize and rhetorically create themselves in their writings. By examining such issues as voice and identity formation, the volume demonstrates how identity may be seen as a cultural fabrication. Former slave narrators used a series of masking and doubling techniques to address their experiences as African Americans. This book crosses the boundaries between literary criticism and historical study by examining the tensions between generic conventions and the impulses that created and reinforced them.

Excerpt

Reader, be assured this narrative is no fiction

--Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

STUDENTS initially entering the undergraduate classes I teach on African-American literature are usually not surprised to see slave narratives included on the reading list. Many are intrigued by their inclusion. A small number have even had some experience with texts like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (most often in the context of history classes) or Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (which they have usually encountered in women's studies classes). Most often, previous approaches had sought to develop an understanding that primarily focused on the overt political concerns addressed by the texts. Less frequently, the emphasis had focused on a historical examination of the cultural importance of the narratives. But interpretive acts that rely exclusively on one of these two methods (or even on some synthesis of the two) are, to varying degrees, simultaneously clarifying and limiting.

Clearly then, this is a book that arises from a deep and sincere teacherly impulse on my part. As such, my aim is to direct my discussion toward an audience that certainly contains specialists in African- American literature but is not completely restricted to those readers. To an extent, those well versed in the area may be somewhat familiar with the basic outline of some of the concerns I raise. Rather, I am particularly conscious of the need to develop in students, general readers, and those new to the field of African-American literature an awareness of the characteristics and significance of the fugitive slave narrative tradition. My purpose is to explore the ways slave narrators, in the confluence of cultural and political contexts, sought to create and authorize themselves and define their experiences. My task here is to seek to engage both culture and politics in the service of language.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.