Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English Literature

Advisor

Ashton, Susanna

Committee Member

Koon , William

Committee Member

Manganelli , Kimberly

Abstract

In the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Known World, Edward P. Jones employs many of the same devices and themes found in traditional slave narratives and neo-slave narratives. Jones presents a complex and ironic model of slavery in his novel, and he uses this unconventional representation of slavery to explore identity and freedom as social constructs, creating a dialogue with slave and neo-slave narrative texts. By placing the novel in a dialogue with slave narratives like, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Jones succeeds in grounding his book in a historical context. He uses intertextuality as a tool to reinforce the relationship between identity and freedom. Jones's novel enters into a dialogue with nineteenth century texts like Uncle Tom's Cabin as well as more contemporary texts, such as Beloved in a way that re-examines the genre. The intertextuality present in The Known World is indicative of the progression of the genre. Born out of the slave narrative tradition, the neo-slave narrative revisits a moment in time in order to reclaim agency. This study aims to explore freedom and identity as a way of placing Jones's novel in the literary canon, and because his novel re-examines and re-invents the genre, it is a new neo-slave narrative

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