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Essay on Traditions in Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

A Medley of Traditions in Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Though considerable effort has been made to classify Harriet Ann Jacobs’Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself as another example of the typical slave narrative, these efforts have in large part failed. Narrow adherence to this belief limits real appreciation of the text’s depth and enables only partial understanding of the author herself Jacobs’s story is her own, political yes, but personal as well. Although she does draw from the genre of her people, the slave narrative, to give life and limb to her appeal for the eradication of slavery in America, she simultaneously threads a captivity narrative, a romance, and a seduction novel through the text as well.

Initially, the blurring of genre lines might appear inconsistent, or contrary to the unity of the work. However, further reflection reveals this “muddying” is in fact Incidents’ strength. By fashioning her narrative like a seduction novel Jacobs was assured her story would be read by the northern female readers she sought to champion. The idea of a captive in a foreign land most closely resembled the author’s own understanding of her life in bondage. And finally, the qualities of a romance render Jacobs’ tale an unmistakable “good read.” Consequently, Harriet Ann Jacobs is much more than just an additional voice among mid-nineteenth century abolitionist banter, she is an astute author with a story altogether her own.

In order to appreciate how Incidents reaches beyond the slave narrative genre, one must first understand how it is perfectly in synch. The slave narrative, popularized between 1840 and 1865 largely due to the creative efforts of Frederick Doug…

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…sors Comments: Katie, this is A work, this is what I want everybody to be able to generate, this is my hope and reward. You set out from the first with a clear agenda about four prongs of your argument about genre and Jacobs and systematically show how each is separately evoked and confirmed, finding along the way some excellent supporting critical opinions. I do think that your first two sections on seduction and slave narratives are the strongest, in that they show a clearer articulation of the forms. Had you more time, I think you might have developed the captivity narrative conventions more thoroughly. Only the romance section needs more propping up, as the romantic conventions are more implied than articulated. Even so, these concerns are small potatoes. Overall, thoughtful and scholarly work. Thanks for the effort. Wanna switch majors?

Grade: A

Racism in Song of Solomon, Push and Life of Olaudah Equiano

Expressing Racism in Song of Solomon, Push and The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

African-Americans often are discriminated against, suffer from a barrage of racial remarks, and even endure racially based acts of violence. Unfortunately, this crime against humanity goes both ways. Those being oppressed may retaliate as a matter of self-defense, sometimes becoming that which they despise most. In many cases the Black man is forced into developing racist mores against the White man due to past history and to the fact that Whites discriminate against them. The victim of oppression can become the oppressor and, in fact, this ‘reverse racism’ may easily develop into a feeling of superiority for Black people. Although both parties, Black and White racists, suffer from the belief that their own race is the superior one, it could be said that the Black community is oftentimes more justified in their beliefs. Black writer, Sapphire is quoted as saying “One of the myths we’ve been taught, is that oppression creates moral superiority. I’m here to tell you that the more oppressed a person is, the more oppressive they will be” (Walker, Fall 2001). I believe it not only creates a more oppressive group of people, but a group that believes they are morally superior. This moral superiority is evident in the writings and the personal lives of Olaudah Equiano, Toni Morrison, Sapphire and Maya Angelou. These writers display a common point of view held among many African-Americans in their views of Africa versus America, morality among Whites versus morality among Blacks, and racial inferiority versus racial superiority.

African-Americans often form comparisons between Africa, the country they were forcibl…

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…and the Middle Passage. Ed. Maria Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and

Carl Pedersen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 47-56.

Davis, Jane. The White Image in the Black Mind: A Study of African American

Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Equiano, Olaudah. “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.”

The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Putnam, 1987: 1-182.

Mandville, Sir John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Harmondsworth,

England: Penguin, 1983, p.64.

Morrison, Toni_Guest. Personal Interview. Jet 31 August 1998. (10 Sept. 2001).

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Penguin Group, 1977.

Sapphire_Guest. Personal Interview by Carletta Joy Walker.

(13 Sept. 2001).

Sapphire. Push. New York: Random House, 1997.

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