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Fugitive TestimonyOn the Visual Logic of Slave Narratives$
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Janet Neary

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823272891

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823272891.001.0001

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Behind the Scenes and Inside Out: Elizabeth Keckly’s Use of the Slave Narrative Form

Behind the Scenes and Inside Out: Elizabeth Keckly’s Use of the Slave Narrative Form

(p.54) 2 Behind the Scenes and Inside Out: Elizabeth Keckly’s Use of the Slave Narrative Form
Fugitive Testimony

Janet Neary

Fordham University Press

Advancing a formal reading of Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868), this chapter shows how Elizabeth Keckly undermines the ideological presumptions that link blackness with enslavement and whiteness with literacy and truth by inverting the racial protocols underlying slave narratives’ conventions of authentication. In Behind the Scenes it is Keckly’s letters that authenticate Mary Lincoln’s version of events, Tad Lincoln’s reading lesson which is included in place of her own, and the narrative gaze is primarily on the white bodies within the text as they take shape in her vocation, dress-making. In overturning these race rituals, which rely on fixed notions of “black” and “white,” Keckly challenges the racial protocols of the slave narrative and exposes how the form itself has been organized by the visual logic of racial slavery.

Keywords:   Behind the Scenes, conventions of authentication, Elizabeth Keckley, literacy, slave narrative

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