Signifying Marks and The ‘Not Counted’ Inscriptions of Dave the Potter
Abstract

This essay investigates the writing of enslaved artisan, David Drake or Dave the Potter, who made some of antebellum South Carolina’s largest storage vessels onto which he also incised couplets and signatures. Rather than focus on the intelligible words of Dave the Potter, however, this essay seeks to understand the artisan-author’s writing practice by focusing on the slash marks, gaps, and other unaccountable markings. Therefore, although several couplets are interpreted, they are approached with a view toward expanding upon an overlooked category of the “not counted” in David Drake’s repertoire, borrowing the phrase from a jar of 1843 on which those very words ‘not counted’ have been incised. This essay disinters the semiotic potential of Drake’s vessels to show how they reconfigure not only the (material) signifying practices available to an author in Drake’s position, but also the ontological and temporal boundaries of antebellum slavery.


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