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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

7. Slavery and

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•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

Harriet Jacobs - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: What strategies does Jacobs adopt in her efforts to resist her master? How does she assert her rights over her own body and her children? How does she deal with the racism she encounters once she has escaped to the North?

  2. Comprehension: How do Jacobs's relationships with family members and her children influence the decisions she makes?

  3. Comprehension: Draw a diagram of the attic Jacobs hid in for seven years. How does your picture compare to Jacobs's description of the "loophole" in which she lived? What kinds of physical and emotional challenges would living in such enclosed quarters pose for an individual?

  4. Context: How does Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl compare to Frederick Douglass's narrative? What goals, values, and strategies do Jacobs and Douglass have in common? In what respects do they differ?

  5. Context: How does Jacobs's text both appropriate and challenge conventions of domesticity and white ideals of femininity? What techniques does she adopt from sentimental novels such as Uncle Tom's Cabin? How does her text implicitly critique domestic ideals?

  6. Exploration: Until the early 1980s, many scholars believed that Jacobs's narrative was a fictional rather than an autobiographical account (a theory that has subsequently been dismissed after conclusive evidence documenting Jacobs's life came to light). Why do you think critics read this text as a novel? How does it participate in novelistic conventions? How does our understanding of the text change once we know that it was really "written by herself," as the subtitle claims?

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