literary argument supported by textual evidence and analysis


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We began our investigation of slave narratives by looking at perhaps the most studied example of the genre, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. In a measured language, Douglass’s narrative tracked the transformation of a boy into a slave and the subsequent transformation of a slave into a man. We then analyzed Harriet Jacobs’s sentimental Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, exploring the ways in which Jacobs critiqued the institution of slavery by adopting the form of the sentimental novel.

choose ONE of our selected slave narratives, and come up with a compelling literary argument supported by textual evidence and analysis of that evidence. Rather than merely an account of various interesting things in the text, let the paper focus on a primary argument. Avoid needless summary or book report-style.

1. Formulate your own research question and argument. Make sure that your paper has a singular focused argument/thesis, that answers what, how, and why. What is the argument, how is the manner by which the text supports this argument, and why is the argument important? If you aren’t sure, feel free to run your idea by me and we can talk through it.

Cite from at least 1 of the assigned texts
4 to 5 pages (Double Spaced)
No citation of outside resources

passage from twelve years a slave

“It was rarely that a day passed by without one or more whippings. This occurred at the time the cotton was weighed. The delinquent, whose weight had fallen short, was taken out, stripped, and made to lie upon the ground, face downwards, when he received a punishment proportioned to his offense. It is the literal, unvarnished truth, that the crack of the lash, and the shrieking of the slaves, can be heard from dark till bedtime, on Epps’ plantation, any day almost during the entire period of the cotton-picking season, The number of lashes is graduated according to the nature of the case. Twenty-five are deemed a mere brush, inflicted, for instance, when a dry leaf or piece of boll is found in the cotton, or when a branch is broken in the field; fifty is the ordinary penalty following all delinquencies of the next higher grade; one hundred is called severe: it is the punishment inflicted for the serious offense of standing idle in the field; from one hundred and fifty to two hundred is bestowed upon him who quarrels with his cabin-mates, and five hundred, well laid on”

Explanation & Answer

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