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ERIC Number: ED371358
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1994-Mar
Pages: 7
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Slave Narratives as Polemic.
Heglar, Charles J.
Although slave narratives have enjoyed critical attention as literature and autobiography, when presenting them to undergraduates, there is some confusion--usually centering on the dissimilarities between the narratives and traditional autobiography. The narratives are not as linear, not as focused on personal development; the narrators are not as renowned as some national figures. Finally the narratives are polemical or didactic; they argue a point persistently. While the polemical nature of slave narratives must lead to a study of historical context, it should also lead to a study of the popular genres they appropriated. Ex-slaves used the conventions of the spiritual autobiography, the conversion narrative, or the sentimental novel for the following reasons: (1) to tap into a storehouse of formulas which a reading audience already shared; (2) to argue subtextually for their inclusion in the mainstream; (3) to draw the reader into sympathetic relation with themselves before they asserted their sense of difference or individuality through some subversion of expectation. In "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," for instance, Harriet Jacobs appropriates sentimental conventions at the same time that she challenges them to argue against slavery. (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A