Editing and Translating North American Slave Narratives: A Cross-Cultural Dialogue

Cette toute première séance du séminaire nous a permis d’accueillir Richard J. M. Blackett venu nous présenter son travail sur William and Ellen Craft, accompagné de Claire Parfait, Marie-Jeanne Rossignol et Michaël Roy


The scholarly editing of antebellum slave narratives poses particular problems linked to their complex publication histories and to the racial dynamics of the American abolition movement: A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper, from American Slavery was published in at least ten American and British editions between 1837 and 1848; The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave (1849) was entirely rewritten in the style of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and published as Truth Stranger than Fiction: Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life in 1858; Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) was heavily edited by white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, much to the dismay of its author. How have modern critical editions of slave narratives tackled—or failed to tackle—these textual issues? Drawing from their own experience, R. J. M. Blackett (Vanderbilt University), Marie-Jeanne Rossignol (Université Paris Diderot), Claire Parfait (Université Paris 13) and Michaël Roy (Université Paris Nanterre) will discuss the stakes of editing North American slave narratives and translating them for a French audience.

  • Andrews, William L. “Editing ‘Minority’ Texts.” In The Margins of the Text, edited by D. C. Greetham, 45-55. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
  • Blackett, R. J. M. “Fugitive Slaves in Britain: The Odyssey of William and Ellen Craft.” Journal of American Studies 12, no. 1 (1978): 41-62.
  • Brown, William Wells. Le Récit de William Wells Brown, esclave fugitif, écrit par lui-même. Edited and translated by Claire Parfait and Marie-Jeanne Rossignol. Mont-Saint-Aignan: Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2012.
  • Craft, William. Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery. Edited by R. J. M. Blackett. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999. Also available at https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/craft/craft.html.
  • McCaskill, Barbara. Love, Liveration, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015.
  • Roy, Michaël. Textes fugitifs. Le récit d’esclave au prisme de l’histoire du livre. Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2017.

Listen to the interventions

Richard Blackett
Marie-Jeanne Rossignol
Claire Parfait et Marie-Jeanne Rossignol

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