ERIC Number: ED337772
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Apr-12
Reference Count: N/A
Gender Issues and the Slave Narratives: "Incidents in the Life" and "Narrative of the Life" Compared.
DeGout, Yasmin Y.
The differences between early African American narratives written by women and those written by men can be seen in a comparison of Harriet A. Jacobs's "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself" and Frederick Douglass's "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave." A comparison of these works offers the greatest contrast of issues found throughout gender and autobiographical studies--issues of voice, content, ideology, and form. Douglass and Jacobs differ widely in voice, because of gender-related aspects of how voice is rendered, to whom it speaks, how much it is present, and how it is used to authenticate the speaker. Issues of ideology also surface as gender differences, both within the two texts and in the perception of them. The novelization of "Incidents" is only one element of contrast of form in the two texts. Despite their similarities--in shared themes of violence, sexual abuse, separation, religious irony, education, abolition, and demythification--the books' differences should call into question the perception of Douglass's "Narrative" as the peerless prototype of the genre. Scholars rethinking the African American literary canon may indeed need to consider that the "Narrative" finds its peer in "Incidents." Black women and black men underwent different experiences in slavery, perceived them differently, and wrote about them differently. Jacobs' achievement was the creation of a complex, contoured black woman and the depiction of her experiences in slavery. (Twenty-seven references are attached.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: African Americans; Black Writers; Douglass (Frederick); Jacobs (Harriet A); Narrative Text; Voice (Rhetoric)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Conference of MELUS, the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (5th, Minneapolis, MN, April 11-13, 1991).