Jacobs, Harriet: Further Reading

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Yellin, Jean Fagan. "'Written by Herself': Harriet Jacobs's Slave Narrative." American Literature 53, no. 3 (November 1981): 479-86.

Seminal study that reveals the existence of letters attesting to the authenticity of Jacobs's narrative and illuminating the editorial role of the white abolitionist Lydia Maria Child.

——. "Legacy Profile: Harriet Ann Jacobs." Legacy 5, no. 2 (fall 1988): 55-61.

Overview of Jacobs's life and her narrative.

——. "Harriet Jacobs's Family History." American Literature 66, no. 4 (December 1994): 765-77.

Corrects an error in her 1987 edition of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl regarding the identity of Jacobs's father.

——. Harriet Jacobs: A Life. New York: Perseus Books, 2004, 394 p.

Details Jacobs's life before and after her writing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.


Accomando, Christine. "'The laws were laid down to me anew': Harriet Jacobs and the Reframing of Legal Fictions." African American Review 32, no. 2 (summer 1998): 229-45.

Contends that Jacobs's narrative includes a sustained legal critique.

Bartholomaus, Craig. "'What Would You Be?': Racial Myths and Cultural Sameness in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." CLA Journal 39, no. 2 (December 1995): 179-94.

Examines the use of "true womanhood" and other elements in Jacobs's narrative to show how the text refutes negative stereotypes advanced by nineteenth-century scientific theories of race.

Beardslee, Karen E. "Through Slave Culture's Lens Comes the Abundant Source: Harriet A. Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." MELUS 24, no. 1 (spring 1999): 37-61.

Emphasizes the individuality of experience in Jacobs's autobiography even as it offers lessons about the system of slavery, history, culture, and the melding of past and present.

Becker, Elizabeth C. "Harriet Jacobs's Search For Home." CLA Journal 35, no. 4 (June 1992): 411-21.

Analyzes the "cult of true womanhood" on Jacobs as a black woman, arguing that her emphasis on the home as the center of female purpose influences every aspect of her narrative.

Boren, Mark Edelman. "Slipping the Shackles of Subjectivity: The Narrator as Runaway in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Genre 34, no. 1-2 (spring-summer 2001): 33-62.

Examines the subject position of Jacobs as narrator in her autobiography.

Braxton, Joanne M., and Sharon Zuber. "Silences in Harriet 'Linda Brent' Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." In Listening to Silences: New Essays in Feminist Criticism, edited by Elaine Hedges and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, pp. 146-55. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Discusses the way in which Jacobs uses and transcends the silence imposed upon her by virtue of her being a slave, a woman, and a mother.

Carby, Hazel V. "'Hear My Voice, Ye Careless Daughters': Narratives of Slave and Free Women before Emancipation." In Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist, pp. 40-61. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Explores the influence of the nineteenth-century conception of "true womanhood" on Jacobs's narrative and contends that the author used the events of her life to critique conventional standards of female behavior and to question their relevance for black women's experience.

Cutter, Martha J. "Dismantling 'The Master's House': Critical Literacy in Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Callaloo 19, no. 1 (1996): 209-25.

Discusses Jacobs's use of her literacy in a way that liberated her from society's dominant discursive practices.

Dalton, Anne B. "The Devil and the Virgin: Writing Sexual Abuse in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. "In Violence, Silence, and Anger: Women's Writing as Transgression, edited by Deirdre Lashgari, pp. 38-61. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995.

Suggests that, through her language and imagery, Jacobs suffered more sexual abuse than she reports in her narrative.

Doherty, Thomas. "Harriet Jacobs's Narrative Strategies: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Southern Literary Journal 19, no. 1 (fall 1986): 79-91.

Examines Jacobs's use of the conventions of the sentimental genre and describes the shortcomings of the narrative as a sentimental novel.

Emsley, Sarah. "Harriet Jacobs and the Language of Autobiography." Canadian Review of American Studies 28, no. 2 (1998): 145-62.

Discusses the truth of Jacobs's autobiographical account despite its sentimental, unconventional, and fiction-like aspects.

Foreman, P. Gabrielle. "The Spoken and the Silenced in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Our Nig." Callaloo 13, no. 2 (spring 1990): 313-24.

Explores how Jacobs's autobiography resembles and differs from Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig, focusing on how the two writers negotiate the assertion of their voices.

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. To Write My Self: The Autobiographies of Afro-American Women, edited by Shari Benstock, pp. 161-80. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Includes a discussion of the differences in tone between Jacobs's autobiography and other works of sentimental domestic literature.

Garfield, Deborah M. "Speech, Listening, and Female Sexuality in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Arizona Quarterly 50, no. 2 (summer 1994): 19-49.

Discusses the complexities involved in acts of speaking, writing, and hearing, and in Jacobs's articulation of her experiences in her narrative.

Garfield, Deborah M., and Rafia Zafar. Harriet Jacobs and

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl : New Critical Essays, edited by Deborah M. Garfield and Rafia Zafar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 256 p.

Offers a collection of thirteen critical essays.

Gelder, Ann. "Reforming the Body: 'Experience' and the Architecture of Imagination in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. "In Inventing Maternity: Politics, Science, and Literature, 1650-1865, edited by Susan C. Greenfield and Carol Barash, pp. 252-66. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

Discusses the use of and politicization of the female body in Jacobs's narrative.

Gwin, Minrose. "Green-Eyed Monsters of the Slavocracy: Jealous Mistresses in Two Slave Narratives." In Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, edited by Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers, pp. 39-52. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Examines the ways in which the stereotypes and relationships of white and black women within the "slavocracy" of the South informs Jacobs's work.

Kaplan, Carla. "Narrative Contracts and Emancipatory Readers: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Yale Journal of Criticism 6, no. 1 (spring 1993): 93-119.

Argues that Jacobs attempts to create a new black narrative position that rejects aspects of both the slave narrative genre and romance genre.

Martin, Terry J. "Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent) (C. 1813-1897)." In Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Denise D. Knight, pp. 262-69. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Sketch outlining Jacobs's life, major works and themes, and critical response to her writing.

McKay, Nellie Y., and Frances Smith Foster. Introduction to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Nellie Y. McKay and Frances Smith Foster, pp. i-xxv. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Reproduces Jacobs's text and presents a selection of contemporary responses, Jacobs's other writings, and critical essays on Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Mills, Bruce. "Lydia Maria Child and the Ending to Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." American Literature 64, no. 2 (June 1992): 255-72.

Studies the influence of Lydia Maria Child, the editor of Jacobs's narrative, on the author's writing and on the book's structure and content.

Nayar, Pramod K. "The Dialogic Imperative: The Case of Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Indian Journal of American Studies 27, no. 2 (summer 1998): 27-30.

Argues that Jacobs's autobiography can be seen as "dialogic" on several levels: the work is a dialogue to and within herself, a dialogue with white abolitionists, and a dialogue within a dialogue.

Nudelman, Franny. "Harriet Jacobs and the Sentimental Politics of Female Suffering." ELH 59, no. 4 (winter 1992): 939-64.

Recounts the ways in which Jacobs's use of the conventions of the sentimental novel and the influence of the "cult of true womanhood" have been analyzed by critics.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Introduction to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Nell Irvin Painter, pp. i-xxxvi. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.

Provides an overview of Jacobs's life, critical assessment of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and a review of early notices of the narrative.

Randle, Gloria T. "Between the Rock and the Hard Place: Mediating Spaces in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." African American Review 33, no. 1 (spring 1999): 765-77.

Discusses Jacobs's ability to retain her mental health despite the suffering she endured.

Sanchez-Eppler, Karen. "Righting Slavery and Writing Sex: The Erotics of Narration in Harriet Jacobs Incidents. "In Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body, pp. 83-104. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Examines the relationship between slavery and the act of writing for Jacobs.

Sherman, Sarah Way. "Moral Experience in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." NWSA Journal 2, no. 2 (spring 1990): 167-85.

Argues that the source of moral conflict and ambiguity in Jacobs's work stems from the narrator's struggle with the exploitation and brutality of slavery and idealized conception of "true womanhood."

Skinfill, Mauri. "Nation and Miscegenation: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Arizona Quarterly 51, no. 2 (summer 1995): 63-79.

Examines Jacobs's narrative in the context of a capitalist economy and a national discourse of domesticity.

Smith, Valerie. "'Loopholes of Retreat': Architecture and Ideology in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. "In Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., pp. 212-26. New York: Meridian, 1990.

Examines the implications of the literal and figurative structures of confinement in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Sorisio, Carolyn. "'There is Might in Each': Conceptions of Self in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Legacy 13, no. 1 (1996): 1-18.

Discusses the influence of Romanticism and Transcendentalism on Jacobs's perception of "self."

Walter, Krista. "Surviving in the Garret: Harriet Jacobs and the Critique of Sentiment." American Transcendental Quarterly 8, no. 3 (September 1994): 189-210.

Argues that Jacobs's work does not conform to but rather critiques the sentimental tradition.

Warhol, Robyn R. "'Reader, Can You Imagine? No You Cannot': The Narratee as Other in Harriet Jacobs's Text." Narrative 3, no. 1 (January 1995): 57-72.

Examines Jacobs's narrative as a reconstruction of the codes that the textual conventions of domestic, sentimental, and Gothic literature promoted in the nineteenth century.

Warner, Anne Bradford. "Santa Claus Ain't a Real Man: Incidents and Gender." In Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts, edited by Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson, pp. 185-200. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Argues that Jacobs reshapes the notion of the narrating person as a trickster and creates a text that is shifting, subversive, spiritual, and satiric.

Washington, Mary Helen. "Meditations on History: The Slave Woman's Voice." In Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women 1860-1960, pp. 3-15. New York: Anchor Press, 1987.

Analyzes Jacobs's use of the sentimental domestic genre in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, arguing that the work reads more as a slave narrative than a sentimental novel, particularly in the way in which it transcends the boundaries of gender.

Winifred, Morgan. "Gender-Related Difference in the Slave Narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass." American Studies 35, no. 2 (fall 1994): 73-94.

Compares the different strategies of coping and resistance portrayed in Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Frederick Doulgass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.


Additional coverage of Jacobs's life and career is published in the following sources published by the Gale Group: African American Writers, Eds.1,2; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 239; Feminist Writers; Literature and Its Times, Vol. 2; Literature Resource Center; Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 67; and Reference Guide to American Literature, Ed. 4.

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