Re(-)Markable Texts: Making Meaning of Revision in Nineteenth-Century African American Literature

Date of Award

Fall 10-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English Language and Literature

First Advisor

Smith, Caleb


“Re(-)Markable Texts” centers the practice of same-author revision in nineteenth-century African American literature. It argues that the study of revision is key to understanding current critical discourses on black authorship and offers new methodologies for approaching black textual studies. The authors in this study changed their own texts in large and small ways. They returned to and reshaped their words despite whatever sense of crisis might have urged them ever onward. “Re(-)Markable Texts” adapts theories and methods from textual scholarship, genetic criticism, and editorial theory in order to reconstruct the processes that constitute black revisionary labor. It embraces the hermeneutic conundrums that arise from the textual multiplicity of David Walker’s overtly revised Appeal; it wades through convention minutes to locate the tedious collaboration and contention that complicate what it means to “establish” a text for Henry Highland Garnet’s silently revised “Address to the Slaves of the United States”; it reckons with cut-and-pasted strips of paper and other revisionary strategies that give texture to compositional time in Hannah Crafts’ Bondwoman’s Narrative. This project intervenes on a scholarly tradition that tends to champion early African American writing products to the exclusion of the writing processes that brought them into being.

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