Title

The African American Slave Narrative and their Contribution to English Literature

Lead Author Major

English

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Jeffrey Hole

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Abstract/Artist Statement

African American slave narratives are oftentimes relegated to the particularized field of ante-bellum black American history. This underutilizes the slave narrative because it functions as much more than what directly pertains to the institution of slavery. The slave narrative is a repository of sentimentalism, political activism, philosophy, and powerfully intervenes in current ideologies of their time. Slave narratives directly refute Thomas Jefferson’s popular claim that “their [black people’s] existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection.” The slave narrative has had a paramount influence on modern literature, specifically twentieth century African American literature, not because it merely relates specific slave experiences in a meaningful way, but because it is a literary genre that deserves increased academic consideration. In this presentation, I will explore the ways in which the slave narrative supersedes the narrow confines of ante-bellum black American history and contributes to the whole of English literature.I will accomplish this by specifically examining the works of Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince. Both Equiano and Prince demonstrate their ability to use political and philosophical logic and the autobiography along with sentimentalism, the hero’s journey, and suspense to captivate their audience and rouse them to action. In this way, their narratives produce a counter discourse of African Americans and slaves. I will borrow and extend from scholar Dwight A. McBride’s Impossible Witnesses to discuss the slave narrative’s ability to intervene on its own behalf through rhetoric and literary maneuvering, despite the disenfranchised position of blacks.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 221

Start Date

21-4-2011 5:00 PM

End Date

21-4-2011 8:00 PM

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Apr 21st, 5:00 PM Apr 21st, 8:00 PM

The African American Slave Narrative and their Contribution to English Literature

DeRosa University Center, Room 221

African American slave narratives are oftentimes relegated to the particularized field of ante-bellum black American history. This underutilizes the slave narrative because it functions as much more than what directly pertains to the institution of slavery. The slave narrative is a repository of sentimentalism, political activism, philosophy, and powerfully intervenes in current ideologies of their time. Slave narratives directly refute Thomas Jefferson’s popular claim that “their [black people’s] existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection.” The slave narrative has had a paramount influence on modern literature, specifically twentieth century African American literature, not because it merely relates specific slave experiences in a meaningful way, but because it is a literary genre that deserves increased academic consideration. In this presentation, I will explore the ways in which the slave narrative supersedes the narrow confines of ante-bellum black American history and contributes to the whole of English literature.I will accomplish this by specifically examining the works of Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince. Both Equiano and Prince demonstrate their ability to use political and philosophical logic and the autobiography along with sentimentalism, the hero’s journey, and suspense to captivate their audience and rouse them to action. In this way, their narratives produce a counter discourse of African Americans and slaves. I will borrow and extend from scholar Dwight A. McBride’s Impossible Witnesses to discuss the slave narrative’s ability to intervene on its own behalf through rhetoric and literary maneuvering, despite the disenfranchised position of blacks.