Surrogation and the re[creation] of racial vocalization
Letostak, Ellen Joy
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In her 1852 sentimental novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe examines the culture of slavery from a distinctly white, abolitionist point of view and urges her readers to perform their Christian duty and dismantle the evil institution. Stowe’s didactic work galvanized public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic and further stirred the increasingly volatile slavery debate. Stowe’s popular novel was appropriated by commercial interests, causing her great anguish. In 1855 Stowe befriended an African American couple from Philadelphia named Frank and Mary Webb, and rewrote her famous novel as a one-woman performance piece for Mary Webb, entitling it The Christian Slave. Using archival materials, this thesis examines the performance history of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its surrogations, and uses the critical theories of Joseph Roach and Mikhail Bakhtin to suggest that Mary Webb’s [re]creation of Stowe’s narrative vision results in a new, liminal assertion of black voice.