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.

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