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Intertextual Revisionism: Recontextualizing The Eurocentric Literary Tradition In Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative Public Deposited

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  • Thought to be one of the earliest novels written by an enslaved woman, The Bondwoman’s Narrative (c. 1853-61) has had many literary critics point to the various intertextual allusions that author, Hannah Crafts, incorporated in the novel. Scholarship has largely focused on how Crafts borrowed characters and passages directly from works like Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, as well as other examples of transatlantic Gothic and Sentimental literature during the 19th century. Crafts’s reliance on literary allusions has led to debate amongst scholars on whether it is more conducive to think of Crafts as an author or a reader and reviser of various texts. This essay argues for the latter, exploring how Crafts’s ability to take established texts within a Eurocentric literary tradition and repurpose them within the context of a slave narrative exposes the dehumanizing nature of slavery as well as the hypocrisy of the white ruling class that enabled it to persist. Crafts is able to create a compelling social commentary through likening southern slaveowners to a corrupt European aristocracy, exploring the intersectionality of race and class by creating a more complex and dynamic depiction of an enslaved person, and utilizing Biblical allusions to give the text a sense of spiritual and moral authority that would satisfy a white, Christian readership.
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