Lecture and Seminar: Prof. Dr. Juergen Martschukat
Enslaved African-American men and women were denied the acceptance as liberal selves in American society. The circumstances of their enslaved existence offered them little or no opportunities to visibly express their capability for self-control and self-guidance which were deemed crucial in America for gaining acknowledgement as potential citizens and subjects.
Since the 1830s, the abolitionist movement and discourse increasingly merged the issues of African-American liberation, the end of slavery, and the acknowledgement of African-Americans as subjects. Here, the ‘slave narratives’ had a most considerable impact and were a highly influential literary genre. Being both real and imagined, the slave narratives were presented as autobiographical accounts of the thoughts and actions of escaped slaves and sought to show that slaves were capable of acting as liberal selves and thus deserved freedom and acknowledgement. This paper will illustrate the significance of slave narratives by focusing on the story of Tom Jones (first published 1854) as a case study. It will demonstrate the seemingly authentic (self-)portrayal of Jones as a caring and rational father matched with established white, middle class, Northern expectations addressed to male selves in America, which focused in particular on the individual's self-guidance and his ability for free labor and for being the provider of his family.
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