Article ID: CBB701445137

Breathing Free: Environmental Violence and the Plantation Ecology in Hannah Crafts's The Bondwoman's Narrative (2020)


This essay presents an ecocritical analysis of Hannah Crafts's The Bondwoman's Narrative, the 1850s manuscript novel by a formerly-enslaved African American woman that was recovered by Henry Louis Gates in 2001. Examining Crafts's extensive engagement with Charles Dickens's Bleak House, it argues that Crafts's fictionalized narrative of enslavement and self-emancipation re-imagines a Victorian politics of environmental health as a critique of environmental racism. Showing how Crafts presents the material ecology of the plantation South as a site and vector of violence, it reads The Bondwoman's Narrative as resisting nineteenth-century scientific discourses of racialized immunity that sought to legitimize the systemic neglect of enslaved people in the antebellum United States.

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Authors & Contributors
Smith, Kimberly K.
Patterson, Andrea
Winyard, Ben
Furneaux, Holly
Connor, Steven
Perletti, Greta
19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Journal of the History of Biology
Journal of Medical Biography
Nineteenth-Century Contexts
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Florida State University
University Press of Kansas
Pickering & Chatto
University of Illinois Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Virginia, University of
Science and literature
African Americans
African Americans and science
Slavery and slaves
Science and race
Dickens, Charles
Eliot, George
Du Bois, William Edward B.
Locke, Alain
Washington, Booker Taliaferro
Morris, William
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
Southern states (U.S.)
Great Britain
United States
Atlantic world

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