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date: 01 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay calls for reevaluation of how archives crucial to the study of African American slave narratives have been defined, constructed, used, misused, and ignored. Grouped around questions of textual studies and biographical studies, the essay explores how literary historians can navigate, reshape, and even (re)create archives in and surrounding slave narratives. In treating slave narratives vis-a-vis textual studies, the essay argues for placing slave narratives within print culture matrices to reconsider questions of authorship/composition and dissemination/circulation; in this, the essay attends to how slave narratives have (and have not) come to contemporary readers. The essay's discussion of biographical studies surveys key resources and identifies troubling gaps. It argues for recognizing the archival impulse inherent in many slave narratives and asserts that reading slave narratives as archives can shape both the interpretation of such texts and the exploration of other existing records.

Keywords: African American, archives, authorship, Black, literary history, print culture, slave narratives, slavery, Lucy Delaney, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs

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