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

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

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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

 

 

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