Home > Uncategorized > Harriet Jacobs, Linda Brent, and the Others

Harriet Jacobs, Linda Brent, and the Others

It amazes me how my brain chooses to function. In class, both Dr. Stockton and Dr. Evans always referred to this texts as the “Jacobs Text”. I heard that and understood that they were referring to the author of the text we were about to read. I also read all the introductions to this book and took in what they had to say. However, NEVER ONCE did I question whether or not Linda Brent and Harriet Jacobs were the same people. I assumed, or I didn’t think about it. I think it says a lot about who I am in my own literary analysis. I assumed after picking up this book that it was an autobiography and therefore must have been written by the narrator (naive, I know). I didn’t think that there could have been an editor and a publisher, or even a transcriber, two or three editors, and then a publisher that Jacobs/Brent would have had to go through in order to publish her book. I think this probably (and we discussed this briefly in class)  is the exact opposite of what was assumed at the time of the publication. I can assume after our discussion that the white, northern peoples reading this text in 1861 were thinking that the book they picked up was probably written by a white abolitionist. What a large distance we have come.

Of course, after thinking further and after today’s class I have to question the authenticity of what we are reading. As many people have commented on, because of the dialect, can we be sure that what is being said is an accurate depiction of what happened? Are we being even more sheltered than Linda is constantly making us aware of? Why is this text so much more “educated” than the other slave narratives we read? However, even with the educated language, we are getting a very disturbing picture of the slave-master relationship. That picture was very effectively covered up in the other slave narratives.

I think that every book we read is meant for a certain audience and the publishers, editors, and authors do a very good job appealing to those audiences. So, it makes sense to portray the ex-slaves the way they did in 1936; as uneducated, loyal citizens. It also makes sense that Linda would be portrayed as an educated, and slightly pitiful woman to appeal to her 1861 Northern Abolitionist women audience. It just makes me wonder how much is PR and how much is the real story? Are they mutually exclusive?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I was in the same boat of naivete up until today’s class as well.

    In an attempt to answer your question, I personally do not want to say they are mutually exclusive, at least not all the time. I am more inclined to say that they shape each other which can in turn give reason to raise these questions of authenticity. However, I think that the efforts of editing, transcribing, publishing etc were to clearly convey Jacobs’ story while better targeting the audience you previously mentioned; white northern peoples.

    I also feel the need to raise these questions you have gone through, I think it is necessary to consider them and keep them in mind.

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