Carretta, Vincent 1945- (Vincent Albert Carretta)
Carretta, Vincent 1945- (Vincent Albert Carretta)
Born September 7, 1945, in Amityville, NY; son of Vincent (a construction worker) and Lillian (an office clerk) Carretta; married Patricia Murray (a university administrator), September 7, 1968. Education: State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1971; University of Iowa, Ph.D., 1977.
Home—Springfield, VA. Office—Department of English, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and educator. Mount Mercy College, Cedar Rapids, IA, instructor in English, 1977; University of Maryland at College Park, assistant professor, 1978-83, associate professor, 1983-90, professor of English, 1990—. Visiting lecturer at University of Iowa, 1977; visiting fellow at Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1978-79.
Modern Language Association of America, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS), Augustan Reprint Society, South Atlantic Modern Language Association, Northeast Modern Language Association, East-Central ASECS, South-East ASECS.
Fellow of Newberry Library, 1975, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1976, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1978, Huntington Library, 1983, National Humanities Center, 1983-84, John Carter Brown Library, 1984, and Yale Center for British Art and British Studies, 1985; grant from American Council of Learned Societies, 1978-79; award from American Philosophical Society, 1985; award from National Endowment for the Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University, 1990.
The Snarling Muse: Verbal and Visual Political Satire from Pope to Churchill, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1983.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) The Satires of Mr. (Paul) Whitehead, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1984.
(Editor and author of introduction) Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1995, revised edition, 2003.
(Editor) Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-speaking World of the Eighteenth Century, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1996.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Ignatius Sancho, Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Ottobah Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery and Other Writings, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor and author of introduction) Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor, with Philip Gould) Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2001.
Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2005.
Contributor to books, including Poems in Their Place, edited by Neil Fraistat, University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Contributor of articles and reviews to literature and philology journals.
Vincent Carretta is a professor of English who has written and edited several books, including editions of books and writings by black authors and slaves from the eighteenth century. He also is the editor and author of two books focusing on Olaudah Equiano, an African slave whose intelligence and business acumen enabled him not only to buy his freedom but also to become one of the most financially successful freed slaves of the eighteenth century. "No one has a greater claim to being a self-made man than the writer now best known as Olaudah Equiano," Carretta noted in an interview on the University of Georgia Press Web site.
Carretta is the editor and author of the introduction to a book that includes Equiano's autobiography and is titled The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Written at a time when more and more antislavery pamphlets, articles, and other writings were appearing, Equiano's autobiography was an enormous success, with nine editions published in five years beginning in 1789 and versions of the autobiography being published in several countries throughout Europe and in the United States. In his autobiography, Equiano recounts his life as a slave, the buying of his freedom in 1766, his numerous adventures following his freedom, his own subsequent participation in the slave trade, and his ultimate rejection of slavery as he became a social reformer and Methodist. "Over the past thirty-five years, historians, literary critics, and the general public have come to recognize the author of The Interesting Narrative as one of the most accomplished English-speaking writers of African descent," the author noted in his interview on the University of Georgia Web site.
In a review of Carretta's edited volume of Equiano's writings, Associated Content Web site contributor Jorja Loughmiller noted that one of the flaws of Equiano's autobiography is its inaccuracies concerning dates and places. Loughmiller wrote, however, that Carretta "does an amazing job at pinpointing actual dates and places that these events actually occurred." Loughmiller also noted that Equiano "gives a wonderful account of his life."
Although Carretta holds Equiano in high regard, his own biography of the former slave, titled Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man, brings some of the assertions made by Equiano in his autobiography into question. For example, in his autobiography, Equiano claims to have been born in Africa and sold into slavery, upon which he was transported on a slave ship. "Through years of patient and tenacious research in neglected archives, Carretta has discovered not one but two documents indicating that Equiano was born in Carolina," noted David Dabydeen in a review in the Guardian. Dabydeen goes on to note that many scholars are angry at the author "for seeming to suggest that Equiano is a trickster." Dabydeen later commented: "Carretta himself suggests that his [Equiano's] possible birth in Carolina rather than Africa in no way diminishes the power of his testimony. Autobiography, after all, is always partly fictional, the narrator excited by storytelling, by shaping and plotting the tale and by dressing up dull facts."
In his biography of Equiano, the author does verify many of Equiano's stories from his autobiography, such as his account of voyages in the Mediterranean and the North Pole. The author also reveals how the former slave's wide range of experiences "gave Equiano a distinctive perspective on slavery and the tenuous life of a free black man," as noted by Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush.
Despite raising the ire of some scholars, the author has received praise from numerous reviewers for his biography of Equiano. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author's "exemplary study offers not only the definitive biography of Equiano but also a first-rate social history of the late 18th century." Writing in Early American Literature, John Saillant noted: "Equiano, the African is an outstanding and distinctive book. Carretta's research is meticulous and his style lucid—exemplary for scholars, as well as for general readers."
Among Carretta's other books are volumes focusing on black literature and books about satirists. For example, in his 1990 book, George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron, the author examines the political satiric poetry and graphic prints of Great Britain and colonial America as they portrayed King George III and life in the latter half of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. Writing in the Review of English Studies, J.A. Downie noted that the book "also attempts to tackle the much more difficult if more interesting question of how the monarchy itself was effectively (re)constructed by the satirists."
As editor of Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-speaking World of the Eighteenth Century, the author presents the writings of sixteen black authors from the early days of slave trade in Great Britain and the United States. "With Unchained Voices, Vincent Carretta has created one of the most comprehensive anthologies of eighteenth-century Black writers yet represented in one volume," wrote Jonathan S. Cullick in ANQ. Carretta is also editor with Philip Gould of Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic. The book features eighteenth-century black authors from America and Great Britain, including Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, and others. Early American Literature contributor Joanna Brooks noted that the volume "confirms the vigor of early Black Atlantic studies and the genius of the literature it represents."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African American Review, spring, 1998, review of Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-speaking World of the Eighteenth Century, p. 172.
American Historical Review, February, 1985, Thomas W. Perry, review of The Snarling Muse: Verbal and Visual Political Satire from Pope to Churchill, p. 128; February, 1985, review of The Snarling Muse, p. 128; June, 2006, Joanne Pope Melish, review of Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man, p. 795.
American Literary History, spring, 2005, Jonathan Elmer, "The Black Atlantic Archive," p. 160.
American Literature, June, 1997, review of Unchained Voices, p. 452; June, 2003, Srinivas Aravamudan, review of Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, p. 427; June, 2006, review of Equiano, the African, p. 421.
Anq, spring, 1999, Jonathan X. Cullick, review of Unchained Voices, p. 50.
Booklist, September 15, 2005, Vanessa Bush, review of Equiano, the African, p. 9.
Choice, April, 1997, review of Unchained Voices, p. 1341; July-August, 2006, T.S. Whitman, review of Equiano, the African, p. 2049.
Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2005, "Unraveling the Narrative."
Early American Literature, spring, 1997, John Saillant, review of Unchained Voices, p. 193; spring, 2002, Joanna Brooks, review of Genius in Bondage, p. 354; summer, 2006, John Saillant, review of Equiano, the African, p. 600.
Eighteenth-Century Fiction, fall, 2005, Bryce Traister, review of Unchained Voices, p. 131.
Eighteenth-Century Studies, winter, 1997, Wilfred D. Samuels, review of Unchained Voices, p. 239; summer, 2006, Josh Sopiarz, review of Equiano, the African, p. 571.
English Historical Review, April, 1994, Peter D.G. Thomas, review of George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron, p. 469.
Guardian (London, England), December 3, 2005, David Dabydeen, "Poetic License," review of Equiano, the African.
Journal of African American History, fall, 2006, Michael Benjamin, review of Equiano, the African, p. 469.
Journal of American History, September, 2003, Simon P. Newman, review of Genius in Bondage, p. 632; December, 2006, G. Ugo Nwokeji, review of Equiano, the African, p. 840.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2007, Paul E. Lovejoy, review of Equiano, the African, p. 150.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005, review of Equiano, the African, p. 892.
Library Journal, November 15, 1983, review of The Snarling Muse, p. 2160.
Nation, November 21, 2005, Robin Blackburn, review of Equiano, the African, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1996, review of Unchained Voices, p. 80; August 1, 2005, review of Equiano, the African, p. 54.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2004, review of The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, p. 137.
Review of English Studies, May, 1988, Jenny Mezciems, review of The Snarling Muse, p. 300; August, 1993, J.A. Downie, review of George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron, p. 426.
Reviews in American History, March, 2006, Robert J. Allison, "Who Was Olaudah Equiano?," p. 12.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, summer, 1991, Paula R. Backscheider, review of George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron, p. 569.
Times Higher Education Supplement, November 17, 2006, James Walvin, "Celebrity Slave with a Credible Tale to Spin," review of Equiano, the African, p. 28.
Times Literary Supplement, March 7, 1997, review of Unchained Voices, p. 32.
Associated Content,http://www.associatedcontent.com/ (October 5, 2007), Jorja Loughmiller, review of The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings.
Penguin Group,http://us.penguingroup.com/ (January 24, 2008), brief profile of author.
University of Georgia Press Web site,http://ugapress.com/ (January 24, 2008), "Author Q&A; Vincent Carretta."