Analyzing the relationship between transatlantic slavery and motherhood in The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave Narrative. Related by Herself
Reyes-Roman, Jessica E.
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This thesis begins by exposing the lack of literary study of female slave narratives. It then moves to analyze The History of Mary Prince in the following order: 1) Outline of Prince’s life: who she was and her origin; 2) A discussion on the development of a slave’s identity, specifically Prince’s; 3) Prince, a slave who gained empowerment through her role as a maternal figure; 4) Prince’s history as a text that displays autobiographical tendencies; 5) The public sphere’s role in introducing Prince’s slave narrative to English society; and 6) The importance of Prince’s history in the twenty first century. Different theories were used as reference within this thesis such as Paul Gilroy’s theory of the Black Atlantic to present how Mary Prince’s life experiences as a slave formed her identity along with Patricia Hill Collins’s theory of the othermother to situate Prince as an empowered, respectable woman in the eyes of British society. Hill Collins’s theory of the othermother is particularly important in this thesis because it allows the reader to perceive how Prince used her role as an othermother to request ultimately her freedom and expose her experiences to the English public. I also rely on James Olney’s essays outlining the conventions for a slave narrative to point out how the manner in which Prince’s History was edited displays autobiographical tendencies. Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere helps to explain how Prince and Thomas Pringle introduced her History into the public sphere in order to gain nineteenth-century British society’s acceptance of herself and of other enslaved peoples.