Harriet Jacobs Essay

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Dr Gabriel Sealey- Morris English 111 21 February 2012 INTRODUCTION Harriet Jacobs's slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (1861), stands out from the male-dominated slave narrative genre in its unique point of view and especially in its focus on the sexual exploitation of the female slave. Soon after the publication ofIncidents, which Jacobs penned under the pseudonym Linda Brent, questions arose regarding the text's authenticity. Many believed the book to have been written by its white abolitionist editor, Lydia Maria Child. Doubts about the narrative's veracity and its true author persisted into the twentieth century, and Incidents consequently was neglected by historians and critics alike. In 1981, however, Jean Fagan Yellin discovered Jacobs's correspondence with Child, and with another abolitionist friend, Amy Post. The letters, along with the rest of Yellin's research, assured the authenticity of Jacobs's narrative; and since thenIncidents has received its due critical attention. Modern criticism has focused largely on Jacobs's exploitation of the sentimental domestic genre and on the differences between Jacobs's work and slave narratives such as Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). Biographical Information Jacobs was born a slave in North Carolina. Her parents were both slaves, but her grandmother had been emancipated and owned her own home, earning a living as a baker. When Jacobs was six years old, her mother died, and she was sent to the home of her mother's mistress, Margaret Horniblow. Horniblow taught the young Jacobs to read, spell, and sew; she died when Jacobs was eleven or twelve and willed Jacobs to Mary Matilda Norcom, Horniblow's threeyear-old niece. While living in the Norcom household, Jacobs suffered the sexual harassment of Dr. James
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