Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Richard Lowry

Committee Members

Elizabeth Barnes

Suzette Spencer

Laurie Wolf


In exploring Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, this thesis emphasizes how writing is an embodied risk and experience for protagonist Linda Brent. Linda withdraws her body from slavery by hiding in her grandmother’s garret, isolating herself from her family and its stories. Within enslaved communities, storytelling is a survival method that helps mitigate the realities of slavery; without a storyteller to turn to, Linda becomes a storyteller by writing letters. While hiding in this space, Linda protects her body from harmful medical and legal discourse, both of which rhetorically and, sometimes literally, disable her. This project examines the garret and writing through a socio-historical context to reveal the complex interplay between danger and freedom: the garret is physically disabling in how it constrains Linda and symbolically enabling in how it gives her the autonomy to exist–free from her enslaver’s influence. Therefore, as a character, Linda acts as a distancing mechanism for Jacobs, allowing Jacobs to protect her story from outside influences and (re)write it without being redrawn into the economies of slavery.

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