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Scholars Day 2006, Wednesday, April 12

Crossing Boundaries: Personal Navigation of the Public Sphere in Antebellum Narratives of Captivity and Slavery

These three papers will explore the ways in which two major figures in American Literature dealt with their captivity and slavery: Mary White Rowlandson and Frederick Douglass. Two of the papers deal specifically with Rowlandson: one takes the approach that she uses her scriptural capacity to reassert and concretize the borders between her Puritan domesticity and her "native" lifestyle in the American wilderness; the second asserts that Rowlandson's navigation between the power of her own authorship and the submission of a Puritan Goodwife (between the zones of public versus personal experience) is successful explicitly through the use of sentimental language and conventions. Finally, the third paper discusses Douglass's sense of his own multiplicity of identities (black slave, free black man, educated free black man, educated American man, white man's pawn) in his narrative. It explores how the layout of the text and various other textual clues illustrate how Douglass took advantage of his unique multiplicity in order to achieve his personal goals without alienating those who held him up as an example. All three papers address the issues of positioning oneself as a successful author(ity) within the bounds of a patriarchal and racist society.

Presenters: Thomas Cotsonas (Graduate Student)
Amy Green (Graduate Student)
Michelle Jansen (Graduate Student)
Topic: English
Location: 217 Hartwell
Time: 2:30 pm (Session IV)