Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony
Publication Year: 2001
Even the most cursory review of black literary production during the nineteenth century indicates that its primary concerns were the issues of slavery, racial subjugation, abolitionist politics and liberation. How did the writers of these narratives "bear witness" to the experiences they describe? At a time when a hegemonic discourse on these subjects already existed, what did it mean to "tell the truth" about slavery?
A work of great depth and originality,
Published by: NYU Press
TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication
Authors of scholarly endeavors inevitably incur many debts during the production of their work. Impossible Witnesses: Truth, Abolitionism, and Slave Testimony certainly represents no exception in this regard. I thank the staffs of the British Library in London, ...
Bearing Witness: Memory, Theatricality,the Body, and Slave Testimony
The chief concern of this book is mapping the rhetorical markers that constitute the terrain of abolitionist discourse. Recasting the abolition debate in terms of a discourse usefully places central significance on the issues of language, rhetorical strategy, audience, and the status and/or production of the ...
2. Abolitionist Discourse
A Transatlantic Context
Simply stated, the fundamental intellectual question that animates this project is: What does it mean for a slave to bear witness to, or to tell the “truth” about, slavery? Perhaps at first glance a deceptively modest query, the question raises four primary concerns of this book. First, through the analysis of representative ...
3. “I Know What a Slave Knows”
Mary Prince as Witness, or the Rhetorical Uses of Experience
The above epigraph is arguably the most interesting and important passage in The History of Mary Prince. It points out Prince’s need to position herself as an “authentic” eyewitness to slavery, even as her contemporary audience wants to read her as such. This passage thematizes the fact that, for Prince, the experience ...
4. Appropriating the Word
Phillis Wheatley, Religious Rhetoric, and the Poetics of Liberation
This chapter is an investigation of the function and circulation of religious rhetoric in the poetry and letters of Phillis Wheatley. It is particularly concerned with the rhetorical strategies that she employed to bear witness to slavery in the late eighteenth century (the earliest context for institutional abolitionism)....
5. Speaking as “the African”
Olaudah Equiano’s Moral Argument against Slavery
While engaged with many of the same Enlightenment discourses as Wheatley’s poems, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself 1 makes use of a significantly different politics. Equiano marshals the army of contemporary metaphors at his disposal to make a ...
6. Consider the Audience
Witnessing to the Discursive Reader in Douglass’s Narrative
This chapter brings together some of the concerns discussed in the preceding ones by recasting, in terms that are most familiar to my readers, the discursive terrain into which the slave narrator enters to give his or her testimony. That is, I consider who is the intended reader of the slave’s testimony. The search ...
The work of Impossible Witnesses has interested me in its specificity, but it has also fascinated me for the paradigmatic possibilities it offers up. The suggestions in this book for understanding slave testimony may also be paradigmatically helpful in our efforts to appreciate more fully our contemporary political ...
About the Author
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2001
OCLC Number: 794701090
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Impossible Witnesses