September 17, 2012

Sojourner Truth's Fictionalized Voice

As a white abolitionist, Gage represented Truth in the voice that she felt was appropriate for the message despite Truth being from the Netherlands she gives Truth the dialect of a black southern slave. By giving Truth a heavy black southern accent she gives her a fictionalized voice.

This is Gage’s attempt to construct audience, by making Truth more of a “figure” for the southern black women her was to appease to that specific audience and to empathizers of that group. “That written text represents Truth’s speech in the white abolitionist’s imagined idiolect of The Slave, the supposedly archetypical black plantation slave of the South” (Logan 20) I personally battle with how to take in Gage’s efforts. Although I understand that making Truth this figure of the strong black southern woman could help to further women’s rights and abolition, the stereotypical framing of Truth is borderline offensive no matter the intentions. It suggests that without that dialect her argument would not be relatable to black southern women and that the empathizers of this group would not be able to receive the message without this false figure.
Although, Campbell’s interpretation must also be questioned because of it’s lack of authenticity.  Written 125 years later, we can’t even assume that she would be able to interpret the intent or feeling behind the speech. Not to mention have a true understanding of the time period and what the message needed to have it’s full impact.  

source: With Pen and Voice: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century African-American Women
Logan, Shirley Wilson (Editor)

1 comment:

Shanae Simon said...

I too blogged about this essay, but I did not discuss the fictionalized voice exactly. I can understand why you questioned Campbell's interpretation, but I feel he did a good job breaking down her speech. It is true that Campbell's interpretation of the speech is difficult to accept because she was not there and she could not feel what the interpreter did, but to say she could not have a true understanding of the time is difficult for me to grasp. I feel that if she knows her history she can understand what was going on at the time. She may not have been able to feel what the audience felt or have witnessed it first hand, but she can know what those times meant for African American slaves.
I do not feel that Truth's fictional voice allowed for the full impact of the message. One, if someone was reading the article at the time that means they were literate and with that they did not need the speech written in that dialect. Only literate people were reading this and the interpreter could have wrote exactly what she said and the reader would have received the message, if not better than this fictionalized voice.

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