Friday, October 8, 2010

Harriet Wilson's Our Nig

"Only the BLACK WOMAN can say "when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing for special patronage, then and there, the whole Negro race enters with me."--Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, 1892

1861 photo of girls in the school yard of the Colored Orphan Asylum, located at 5th Ave. & 43rd St. in New York City. 

As I mentioned in class, Wilson's autobiographical novel melds the two most popular literary genres of the 19th century: the slave narrative and the sentimental novel. 

I would like you to consider how this novel fits in with the other works we have read this semester, or other works you may have read outside of this class (written during the same era), and to think about the following questions:

  • How does this novel compare with other works--what are the similarities, and what are the differences? 
  • What is significant about the prefatory note that precedes the beginning of the story? 
  • What major themes emerge in this novel? 
  • What is Harriet Wilson's motive for writing Our Nig that sets her apart from her (white women) contemporaries?
  • How do you "read" race, gender, and class in Our Nig?
I would like you to think about these questions as you read. Please read up to Chapter Seven (7), and make some notes on passages of significance to you!
All best,
Prof. Williams