ENG 435 (Slave Narrative)

This course focused on the genre of the African American slave narrative from its origins in the 18th century until the Civil War, and explored the themes of writing and self-representation, particularly as they are informed by the issues of race and gender. The authors studied in this course wrote autobiographies during a time in which laws not only forbade slave literacy, but also denied slaves fully human status: we analyzed the significance of these “former slaves” literary acts of resistance given the social, legal, political, and material contexts in which they wrote. The last segment of the course examined later invocations of the slave narrative after emancipation. The reading list included: classic narratives by Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs, and Sherley William’s Dessa Rose, and we also watched Beloved, based on Toni Morrison’s novel by the same name.

Below you will find the final paper that I wrote for this class in which I had to discuss a theme found in two of the books that we read and compare and contrast how the books supported this theme. I chose to analyze the psychological abuse of female slaves in the context of Harriet Jacob’s memoir and the book Beloved. Using outside scholarly sources and the books to justify my thesis, I analyzed the how psychological abuse was used against women slaves in particular and in what ways female slaves resisted such abuse.

Beloved and Harriet Jacobs

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