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Captive Petitions: The Function of Slave Dialect in the Fictional and Transcriptional Texts of Susanna Strickland Moodie

Keywords: Susanna Strickland , Susanna Moodie , Mary Prince , Richard Redpath , slave narrative , slavery , didactic , sentimental , transcription , creole , dialect

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Abstract:

This paper examines issues of authorship in the 1831 slave narratives of Mary Prince and Ashton Warner by focusing on the amanuensis of Susanna Strickland (later Moodie), Canadian pioneer writer and author of Roughing it in the Bush (1852). Drawing on theories of transcription and literary dialect, I argue that much can be gained by placing the 1831 slave narratives alongside those of Moodie’s fictional works which utilize a similar contrast between speakers of standard English and those of creole or “slave” dialect in the course of their narratives (e.g., her early novellas Hugh Latimer and Richard Redpath). Using a trans-generic framework, I illustrate how both the slave narratives and the fictions of slavery must be read in light of Moodie’s prior critical, aesthetic, and political engagement with issues of slavery. This critical framework, I maintain, is operative in Moodie’s writings both prior to and following the 1831 slave narratives and reveals the didactic function of slave dialect across Moodie’s body of fictional and transcriptional writings.

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