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Harriet Ann Jacobs’ Narrative Annotated Bibliography

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Updated: Sep 8th, 2019

Jacobs, Harriet Ann

Harriet Ann Jacobs is one of the most prominent female abolitionists of the nineteenth century. Her personal experience enabled people to give a clear insight into the whole scope of issues concerning slavery. Thus, whereas many former slaves wrote about the dangers slaved had to endure, their struggle for freedom and, finally, their escape and building a new life, Jacobs revealed the issue which were not explicitly articulated before “from motives of delicacy” (qtd. in Washington 57).

Admittedly, in her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Jacobs tackles many such “indelicate” issues which make the reader consider slavery from different social and psychological perspectives. Many scholars analyzed Jacobs’ narrative and biography, and each of this works depicts new facet of one of the most obscure pages of American History.

Ferguson, Moira

Thus, Ferguson reveals landmarks of Jacob’s biography and at the same time briefly depicts the epoch. Ferguson does not only provide some dates and events, but makes a deeper insight into the inner world of the remarkable woman. For instance, the reader gets to know that Jacobs was disappointed with ignorance of her masters and understood that she could rely “for emotional support primarily on” her grandmother and her brother (Ferguson 98).

The present research is a valuable source for the further analysis of Jacobs’ narrative and life since it is based not only on the Jacob’s writing but uses many other reliable sources. The article provides the researcher with information about most important events in Jacob’s life and helps to understand the peculiarities of that period highlighting the process which were taking place in the contemporary society.

Yellin, Jean Fagan

Another valuable source is more concerned with the narrative of Jacobs (Yellin 137-146). Yellin provides a brief depiction of some important biographical data and passes on to the narrative. Yellin tries to understand the reasons which made Jacobs write such a truthful story denoting that Jacobs was ashamed of that part of her life (Yellin 141).

This source deals with two very important issues: Jacobs’ inner world and her peculiar literary style which made her narrative so emotional and sincere. It is necessary to add that apart from Jacobs’ book Yellin uses her letters and other writings, and this makes the present source very valuable since it reveals to great extent Jacobs’ inner world. The source is very useful for the further research since it analyses and evaluates those factors which influenced the creation of the book.

Titus, Mary

Titus makes even deeper insight into the psychological and social factors which became a basis for Jacobs’ book (199-216). Thus, Titus claims that Jacobs does not only depict the story of her life but reveals the essence of “poisonous system” dealing with “social ills” and “bodily ills” (199). Titus considers the peculiarities of Jacobs style stating that she uses “the language of disease and contamination” to reveal the cruelty and viciousness of the society based on slavery (202).

Titus provides a deep analysis exploiting various sources on the topic referring to other scholars who considered slavery in the United States and American literature on the slavery. Of course, such unbiased source is indispensible for the survey concerning Jacobs’ narrative and personal experience since it provides useful ideas about the message of the book and its role or its place in the literature which was a very potent weapon in the struggle for slavery abolishing.

Yarbrough, Fay A.

Of course, one of the important sources for the research can be an article by Yarbrough which deals with the sexuality revealed in Jacob’s book. Yarbrough claims that Jacobs was one of the pioneers to reveal the “constrained position of slave women” (567). Reportedly, the sexual component of females slave life was particularly important since it touched many psychological issues where affection and disgust, love and suffering were intermingled.

The source is really important since Yarbrough considers Jacobs’ experience in the historical and social discourse comparing and contrasting her case with many other slave females. This broad approach (considering Jacobs’ narrative from historical perspective) helps to understand the role of the book in American literature.

Washington, Margaret

Another valuable source for the analysis of Jacobs’ narrative is the article by Washington where she deal with the sexual issues raised in the slave female experience. She compares two brave women, Harriet Jacobs and Sojourner Truth, who were not afraid of “openly admitting” their “sorrow and shame” claiming that “their sagas contained the pulse of the people” (Washington 71). The article is mainly concerned with the personal experience and feelings of slave women.

Besides, Washington denotes the exclusive importance of such sincerity which contributed to the process of slavery abolishing. The source is based on numerous reliable sources including Jacobs’ and Truth’s narrative and scholarly writings which makes it unbiased and very precise. This article enables to see the importance of the sexual component of the narrative which was implicit and underestimated for a long time.

Works Cited

Ferguson, Moira. Nine Black Women: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Writers from the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998.

Titus, Mary. “This Poisonous System”: Social Ills, Bodily Ills, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”. Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: New Critical Essays. Ed. Garfield, Deborah M. and Rafia Zafar. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996. 199-216.

Washington, Margaret. “From Motives of Delicacy”: Sexuality and Morality in the Narratives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs.” The Journal of African American History 92.1 (2007): 57-73.

Yarbrough, Fay A. “Power, Perception, and Interracial Sex: Former Slaves Recall a Multiracial South.” Journal of Southern History 71.3 (2005): 559-588.

Yellin, Jean Fagan. “Incidents in the Life of Harriet Jacobs.” The Seductions of Biography. Ed. Rhiel, Mary and David Bruce Suchoff. New York, NY: Routledge, 1996. 137-146.

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