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The Freedom to Remember Narrative, Slavery and Gender in Contemporary Black Women's Fiction by Angelyn Mitchell

The Freedom to Remember Narrative, Slavery and Gender in Contemporary Black Women's Fiction


The Freedom to Remember Narrative, Slavery and Gender in Contemporary Black Women's Fiction by Angelyn Mitchell

The Freedom to Remember examines contemporary literary revisions of slavery in the United States by black women writers. The narratives at the center of this book include: Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose, Toni Morrison's Beloved, J. California Cooper's Family, and Lorene Cary's The Price of a Child. Recent studies have investigated these works only from the standpoint of victimization. Angelyn Mitchell changes the conceptualization of these narratives, focusing on the theme of freedom, not slavery, defining these works as liberatory narratives. These works create a space to problematize the slavery/freedom dichotomy from which contemporary black women writers have the safe vantage point to reveal aspects of enslavement that their ancestors could not examine. The nineteenth-century female emancipatory narrative, by contrast, was written to aid the cause of abolition by revealing the unspeakable realities of slavery. Mitchell shows how the liberatory narrative functions to emancipate its readers from the legacies of slavery in American society: by facilitating a deeper discussion of the issues and by making them new through illumination and interrogation.


Building upon the work of Toni Cade Bambara, Eleanot Traylor, and Sherley Anne Williams, Angelyn Mitchell is the first to elaborate the need for a shift in terminology used to discuss slave narratives and contemporary novels of slavery. If the only contribution of The Freedom to Remember is to popularize a change from 'slave narrative

'emancipatory narrative'
and from

'neo-slave narrative'

'liberatory narrative,'
Angelyn Mitchell will have accomplished a great deal.

- Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday

About the Author

ANGELYN MITCHELL is an associate professor of English at Georgetown University. She is the editor of Within the Circle: An Anthology of African American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present.

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Book Info

Publication date

31st May 2002


Angelyn Mitchell

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Rutgers University Press


192 pages


Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
Literary studies: from c 1900 -

Slavery & abolition of slavery



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