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Adulthood and Other FictionsAmerican Literature and the Unmaking of Age$
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Sari Edelstein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831884

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831884.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

Peculiar Forms of Aging in the Literature of US Slavery

Peculiar Forms of Aging in the Literature of US Slavery

(p.44) 2 Peculiar Forms of Aging in the Literature of US Slavery
Adulthood and Other Fictions

Sari Edelstein

Oxford University Press

The second chapter examines slavery’s distorting effects on age. It reveals how racism and slavery operate through age, buttressing a system that distributed maturity, and humanity, according to an invented logic that age discourse helped to naturalize. The chapter explores the vexed status of age under slavery Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and my Freedom (1855) and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) as well as Federal Writers’ Project interviews with former slaves who seem to defy the boundaries of human longevity. These narratives acknowledge not merely the corruption of childhood but the exclusion from adulthood as among the most troubling aspects of slavery. Ultimately, they lament slavery’s use of age as a metric of economic value and a tool for dehumanization, and their narratives stage willful refusals to accommodate this logic.

Keywords:   slavery, old age, adulthood, longevity, race, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Federal Writers Project

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