The Freedom To Remember / Edition 1

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The Freedom to Remember examines contemporary literary revisions of slavery in the United States by black women writers. The narratives at the center of this book include: Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, J. California Cooper’s Family, and Lorene Cary’s The Price of a Child.

Recent studies have investigated these works only from the standpoint of victimization. Angelyn Mitchell changes the conceptualization of these narratives, focusing on the theme of freedom, not slavery, defining these works as “liberatory narratives.” These works create a space to problematize the slavery/freedom dichotomy from which contemporary black women writers have the “safe” vantage point to reveal aspects of enslavement that their ancestors could not examine. The nineteenth-century female emancipatory narrative, by contrast, was written to aid the cause of abolition by revealing the unspeakable realities of slavery. Mitchell shows how the liberatory narrative functions to emancipate its readers from the legacies of slavery in American society: by facilitating a deeper discussion of the issues and by making them new through illumination and interrogation.

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Editorial Reviews


"In this provocative, indeed indispensable, study, Mitchell uses Harriet Jacobs's emancipatory narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) as her urtext in examining five novels by women: Octavia Butler's Kindred (1979), Sherley Ann Williams's Dessa Rose (1986), Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987), J. California Cooper's Family (1991), and Lorene Cary's The Price of a Child (1995). . . . All academic collections."
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, Duke University - Karla Holloway

"Angelyn Mitchell's extraordinary study is rich in detail and analysis, confidently mediating our ways of remembering the narratives of slavery as well as the ways of women—as writer and as characterùbearing courageous witness. The Freedom to Remember is scholarship at its very best and will surely be one of the essential books in critical and cultural studies."
author of To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography - William L. Andrews

"A work of evocative interpretation and socially healing criticism, The Freedom to Remember reveals the liberating thematics of contemporary black women's contribution to the much-acclaimed neoslave narrative."
author of If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday - Farah Jasmine Griffin

"Building upon the work of Toni Cade Bambara, Eleanor Traylor, and Sherley Anne Williams, Angelyn Mitchell is the first to elaborate the need for a shift in terminology used to discuss slave narratives and contemporary novels of slavery. If the only contribution of The Freedom to Remember is to popularize a change from slave narrative to emancipatory narrative and from neo-slave narrative to liberatory narrative, Angelyn Mitchell will have accomplished a great deal."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813530697
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Angelyn Mitchell is an associate professor of English at Georgetown University. She is the editor of Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Visions and Revisions of Slavery 1
Ch. 1 Harriet A. Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself: The Ur-Narrative of Black Womanhood 22
Ch. 2 Not Enough of the Past: Octavia E. Butler's Kindred 42
Ch. 3 History, Agency, and Subjectivity in Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose 64
Ch. 4 The Metaphysics of Black Female Identity in Toni Morrison's Beloved 86
Ch. 5 J. California Cooper's Family: Of (Absent?) Mothers, (Motherless?) Daughters, and (Interracial?) Relations 108
Ch. 6 The Economies of Bondage and Freedom in Lorene Cary's The Price of a Child 127
Epilogue: "Textual Healing" and the Liberatory Narrative 144
Notes 151
Works Cited 163
Index 171
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