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The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel$
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Julia Sun-Joo Lee

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390322

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390322.001.0001

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Fugitive Plots in Great Expectations

Fugitive Plots in Great Expectations

(p.113) 5 Fugitive Plots in Great Expectations
The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel

Julia Sun-Joo Lee (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates the influence of the slave narrative in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860-61). Dickens read Douglass’ 1845 slave narrative and devoted an entire chapter of his 1842 travelogue, American Notes, to the atrocities of American slavery. Written on the eve of the American Civil War, Great Expectations appears a steadfastly national text, advocating prison reform and chronicling English class divisions. Yet its organization around scenes of incarceration, clandestine reading, violence, and illicit escape resonate with events across the Atlantic and point to the preeminence of the fugitive plot. Resituating the slave narrative in England, Dickens applies its generic paradigm to issues of class mobility, literacy, and freedom, ultimately mounting a plea for gradual reform over violent insurrection.

Keywords:   slavery, transatlantic, race, Dickens, Great Expectations, Douglass, civil war

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