Research Publication Title

Whiteness, The Real Intermediary Agent: Harriet E. Wilson’s Medium for Amalgamation in Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black

Major

English

Faculty Mentor(s)

Katie Simon

Abstract

Harriet E. Wilson's semi-autobiographical work of fiction, Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) has been experiencing a wave of exposure since its rediscovery by Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 1982. I argue that Wilson permeates the pages of her text at very calculated moments, paying close attention to when and how she manipulates the voice of her text, only permitting the protagonist, Frado, to speak through her intermediary agentÑor mediumÑthe white family she works for, the Bellmonts. My research lends itself to a discussion of racism and theorizing whiteness. Using Foucault and Orlando Patterson, I demonstrate how whiteness leads to a state of embodiment, which in turn, creates personhood for Frado. Wilson uses what is codified, otherwise understood as realÑwhite and blackÑto create a sphere in which she and other mixed raced persons experience a state of embodiment. Her propensity to capitalize on the changing racial landscape in antebellum America suggests that ghosting in Our Nig is the medium through which Wilson demonstrates that the ability to be a free black in the North is a privilege entirely void of liberty.

Start Date

10-4-2015 10:15 AM

End Date

10-4-2015 11:15 AM

Location

HSB 202

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Apr 10th, 10:15 AM Apr 10th, 11:15 AM

Whiteness, The Real Intermediary Agent: Harriet E. Wilson’s Medium for Amalgamation in Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black

HSB 202

Harriet E. Wilson's semi-autobiographical work of fiction, Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859) has been experiencing a wave of exposure since its rediscovery by Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 1982. I argue that Wilson permeates the pages of her text at very calculated moments, paying close attention to when and how she manipulates the voice of her text, only permitting the protagonist, Frado, to speak through her intermediary agentÑor mediumÑthe white family she works for, the Bellmonts. My research lends itself to a discussion of racism and theorizing whiteness. Using Foucault and Orlando Patterson, I demonstrate how whiteness leads to a state of embodiment, which in turn, creates personhood for Frado. Wilson uses what is codified, otherwise understood as realÑwhite and blackÑto create a sphere in which she and other mixed raced persons experience a state of embodiment. Her propensity to capitalize on the changing racial landscape in antebellum America suggests that ghosting in Our Nig is the medium through which Wilson demonstrates that the ability to be a free black in the North is a privilege entirely void of liberty.