The Troubled Discourse of Motherhood in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself

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발행기관 : 한국마크트웨인학회 수록지정보 : 마크 트웨인 리뷰 / 18권 / 3호 / 145 ~ 173 페이지
저자명 : Min-Jung Kim

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Readers have commended Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (1861) rightfully for several reasons. In addition to the incorporation and rewriting of various genres of her time, such as the male slave narrative, sentimental narrative, and abolitionist writing, Jacobs’ autobiographical narrative is, unmistakably, a highly well-constructed and written text with a unifying theme and a consistent narrative voice. Telling the slave experience as a young girl who is vulnerable to the abuses of a shameless slave master, Jacobs develops the discourses of womanhood and motherhood as the central organizing themes in her narrative. Critics have thus credited Jacobs’ carefully selective use of the discourse of motherhood as specifically embraced and promoted by her narrative persona Linda Brent. Jacobs’ fictional self is generally read as an artful and skillful narrator whose faithful adherence to the ideology of proper womanhood and motherhood becomes a means of effectively securing the sympathetic readerly attention of the white middle-class women in the North. In this paper, while examining Jacobs’ willful appropriation of reified motherhood through which she builds her narrative and establishes her narrative authority, I concentrate on instances in the text when motherhood poses as a problem. Through an analysis of how unlike her protagonist, Jacobs’ own life experiences and actions cannot always be governed solely by her duties as a mother, I point to the tensions in the narrative between Jacobs as a writer and Linda Brent her autobiographical persona. My interest is not to argue for the flaws in Jacobs’ writing, but to illustrate how the representational limits of motherhood in the narrative cannot be read in distinction from the racialized relations and history from which Jacobs’ work evolves and to which it responds.

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