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Connotas. Revista de crítica y teoría literarias

On-line version ISSN 2448-6019Print version ISSN 1870-6630


GUTIERREZ CHAM, Gerardo. Conflicting testimoniality in African American slave narratives. Connotas. Rev. crit. teór. lit. [online]. 2021, n.23, pp.21-51.  Epub Dec 16, 2021. ISSN 2448-6019.

In this work, I will show how, in the mid-19th century, in the southern territories of the United States, the narrative voice in the first person used by some former Afro-descendant slaves in their testimonial memoirs was a deciding strategy in materializing the right of speech that had been denied to them for centuries. The first-person narrative of the slaves appeared as a new phenomenon, which, under the appearance of stylistic formality, led to the emergence of an entire system of discursive and epistemic vindication in the slaves’ perception of themselves as the Others, annulled, stigmatized and silenced both in their private spheres and public spaces. For the first time, testimonial narratives steeped in epic challenges removed the silences imposed by plantation owners to such extent that, alongside the efforts of abolitionists, those same narratives exposed the contradictions and abjections of the slave system. However, this narrative self could not be entirely transparent, since it was also fictionalized by white abolitionists, who wrote stories as if they were black slaves themselves, which let to disputes about the authenticity of the narrations. Methodologically, this work is based on the historical relationships between social discourse and literature. As a representative sample, I will use Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

Keywords : narratives; ex-slaves; self-referentiality; fictionality; silencing.

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