The Subject of Abolitionist Rhetoric: Freedom and Trauma in "The Life of Olaudah Equiano"
Corley, Ide (2002) The Subject of Abolitionist Rhetoric: Freedom and Trauma in "The Life of Olaudah Equiano". Modern Language Studies, 32 (2). pp. 139-156. ISSN 0047-7729
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,or Gustavus Vasa, the African (1789) includes an account of the abduction and transportation from West Africa to the Americas of a former slave "written by himself." As a unique historical artifact of the abolition movement, the autobiography continues to garner considerable critical attention. But, despite the self-authenticating tactics of the subtitle, an apparent split in the narrative voice raises questions of authorial intention and control. Critics have answered these by celebrating the text's disruption of Western modes of thinking, of binary distinctions between epistemological categories such as black and white, or civilization and savagery. Yet nascenta spirations to represent Equiano as a visionary or as a redemptive figure of modernity are prohibited by his apparent acquiescence to Enlightenment reason and the principles of free trade, his submission to the judicial processes of the early capitalist state and his evangelical impulses.
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