Nicholas Rinehart is a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard University writing a dissertation on the history of enslaved testimony in the wider Atlantic world. His research has appeared in Transition, Callaloo, Journal of Social History, ReVista, Journal of American Studies, Public Books, and MELUS, with additional essays forthcoming in the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography (Oxford UP) andCambridge Companion to Richard Wright. He is also a co-editor, with Wai Chee Dimock et al., of American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler (Columbia UP, 2017).
Narrative Events: Slavery, Testimony, and Temporality in the Afro-Atlantic World
Scholarly accounts of enslaved testimony overwhelmingly center the slave narrative genre. Yet vast and heterogeneous archives of enslaved testimony across the Atlantic world must be understood on their own terms rather than those derived from this Anglo-American example. “Narrative Events: Slavery, Testimony, and Temporality in the Afro-Atlantic World” surveys several testimonial forms—legal complaints, spiritual visions, folk ethnographies, and lyric poetry—across various periods, geographies, and languages. Rather than read Anglophone slave narratives as the origin of a single tradition, this project proposes a model of “lateral reading”: by constellating the slave narrative with disparate archives and foregrounding testimonial genres that do not constitute the basis of a national or linguistic canon, this method challenges linear or teleological conceptions of Black literary history. Centering non-canonical forms of slave testimony, moreover, reveals new insights into enslaved peoples’ textual production, the comparative history of Atlantic slavery, and the postwar institutionalization of Black Studies.