As demonstrated by the workings of the political unconscious in Jean Toomer’s Cane and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, investigation of authorial biography is an indispensable component of Marxist literary criticism. Symptomatic reading, while derogated by the advocates of “surface reading,” remains crucial to textual interpretation.
This article explores the social and political context embedded in Atlantic child slave biography, such as claims about family, parentage, and orphanhood in narratives of child enslavement. I examine the claims of orphanhood and the fictive kinship relations marshaled by James B. Covey, the interpreter during the trials of La Amistad, during his Atlantic passages as examples of the struggle against alienation to “remake” his political and social being. More than adult slaves, children deployed kinship language and idioms as part of a larger struggle to forge and preserve relationships with benefactors. Although kinship claims are an experience common across slave populations, a focus on the difficulties of writing a biography of child claims draws attention to the extreme vulnerability of child slaves and their pressing need for patron/client relationships.
Annual Bibliography of Works about Life Writing, 2012–2013
Phyllis E. Wachter, Aiko Yamashiro, 704
Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures by Elisabeth El Refaie
Ji-Hyae Park, 862
Excerpts from Recent Reviews of Biographies, Autobiographies, and Other Works of Interest, 866