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Not so simple tales : the historicity and ambiguity of Equiano's anecdotes

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Title: Not so simple tales : the historicity and ambiguity of Equiano's anecdotes
Author: Weiss, Matthew J.
Advisor: McGrane, Laura
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of English
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2004
Abstract: My essay is a rhetorical analysis of the late 18th-century slave narrative The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written By Himself. I examine both the function and the intended purpose of the anecdotes Equiano intersperses throughout his auto-biography, as well as exploring the relationship of the genre of anecdotes to the practice of history. In the Interesting Narrative specifically, I explore the ways in which Equiano's anecdotes answer (i.e. provide a narrative strategy that undermines) two major critiques of his work. The first charge, that of general incompetence and an inability to think abstractly, which was based on his race, was faced by almost every author of African descent in the 18th and 19th centuries. The second, calling into question Equiano's birthplace (he claims to have been born in Africa), has been taken up again by critics in the 1980s and 90s. My thesis argues that not only is Equiano's rhetorical strategy a sufficient "answer" to these charges, but that indicting the Interesting Narrative over the question of birthplace is to miss the point of reading it in the first place.
Subject: Equiano, Olaudah, 1745-1797. Interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano
Subject: Equiano, Olaudah, 1745-1797 -- Criticism and interpretation
Access Restrictions: Open Access
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Weiss, Matthew J.. "Not so simple tales : the historicity and ambiguity of Equiano's anecdotes". 2004. Available electronically from

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