Too Much For My Weak Frame:
A New Media Approach to Narratives of Enslavement
Elizabeth Alexander’s 5CollDH fellowship project and undergraduate thesis was an interdisciplinary inquiry into what it means to read, analyze, and speak to narratives of enslavement. Alexander began with two source texts—Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) and Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred (1979)—and asked how digital literary analysis might create a better reading of the agency, urgency, and silence in Butler and Jacob’s works.
Ironically, it was only in the process of trying to experience Jacobs’ narrative that I began to understand how I could never understand her narrative. The world of an enslaved woman is structurally and ideologically unfamiliar, and it became more important to figure out how I could read and ask productive questions of Jacobs’ life and experience than to analyze her narrative as though I could and did understand.