Abstract and Keywords
This essay explores the literary and discursive terrain within which the slave narratives functioned—the transatlantic world from which they emerged and the world that they addressed—and argues for the need to understand how they participated in contemporary readership, the eighteenth century book trade, and political debate. It examines the relationship between the slave narratives and British and American law, Romanticism, and diverse transatlantic attitudes toward colonial power, racial prejudice, and miscegenation. It also highlights the ways in which the authors of these narratives prioritized England as a land of liberty, freed from racial prejudice, yet suffered a very different experience on their arrival upon British soil. Consequently, this essay argues that while slave narratives on both sides of the Atlantic critiqued and transformed attitudes toward rights, liberties, and models of colonial power, they strategically participated in the emergence of a genre focused upon the ambiguous and fluid nature of black subjectivity, as slave, fugitive, racial other, and freed subject.
Keywords: slave narratives, slavery, transatlantic, the “African” subject, law, romanticism, subjectivity, race, miscegenation, otherness, Amelioration Act, Slave Trade Act, Slave Codes, Fugitive Slave Acts, 13th Amendment
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