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2012 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III - Session IV

Undergoing a MIddle Passage: The Evolution of the Slave Narrative

This essay will discuss how Charles Johnsonís novel Middle Passage is a modern version of a slave narrative, and addresses issues that face the African American community in todayís society. I will employ the critical lens developed in Robert B. Steptoís text From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative. Stepto provides a theory for studying or contextualizing Afro-American literary development in terms of its intertextuality via a building block system in which each author advances the literary tropes of previous authors. Stepto presents his theory in terms of a call and response within Afro-American literature, beginning with slave narratives and presenting the development within the narrative form as the attempts or struggle to gain a true authoritative voice. I will show how Johnsonís novel has answered the call posed by previous Afro-American authors in the most thorough fashion to date, while evolving the narrative form to deal with modern issues that face the black community. I will also show how Johnson has transcended the sub-category of Afro-American literature and firmly established his work as American literature through the use of intertextuality and genre mixing.

Presenter: Steven Zapel (Buffalo State College) --
Topic: English - Panel
Location: 216 Hartwell
Time: 9:20 am (Session I)