The Self in Pain
The Self in Pain
Colonialism, Disability, and National Identity
Mary Prince, Sophia Pooley, and Lavina Wormeny
In stark contrast to the idealistic promotion of emigration and the ideal of the healthy self examined in chapter 2, the book turns from idealism to reality through the genre most prominently associated with mid-nineteenth-century Black American literature and which abolitionist Theodore Parker argued contained, “All the original romance of America.” Building on scholarship that complicates this notion of the quintessentially American nature of the genre, chapter 3 reads three women’s slave narratives, which demonstrate how epistemologies of health and tensions between colony and nation on the issue of black well-being frustrate projects of national definition and nation building. Rhetorics of health offer a new potential for the genre’s continued and deepening complex relevance. At focus are slave narratives of three formerly enslaved women in seldom-compared geopolitical and literary contexts: colonial Canada, the United States, and the West Indies. The narratives are Mary Prince’s (1831), Sarah Pooley’s (1856) and Lavina Wormeny’s (1861). These women’s rhetorics of health articulate notions of selfhood that challenge contemporary medical and legal definitions of humanness and personhood and produce radically promising alternatives to such categories and to the overall valorization of autonomy.
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