Disruptive Narratives: Harriet E. Wilson and the
Politics of Place, Race and Religion. Wilson’s life and writing
trouble received paradigms about genre, abolition, cross-racial
alliances, medicine, gendered religious performance, sponsorship and
economic success. I begin by taking up the generic and regional
disruptions Our Nig offers and by situating the book in relation
to Northern narratives of enslavement, bondage and captivity.
Disruptive Narratives then presents new research about the
popularity of “Mrs. H.E. Wilson’s” hair dressing and regenerator and
goes on to explore the scope and reach of her postbellum success as a
New England lecturer known as “Boston’s earnest and eloquent colored
medium.” This projects seeks to answer the question: What do we learn
about narratives of labor, race and resistance when our findings rub
against the grain of conventional nineteenth-century notions about Black
national, regional and religious identity? Preliminary research has been
published in the Boston Globe, the Penguin Classics edition of
Our Nig and in the anthology Harriet Wilson’s New England.
Resist! Transnational Rebellion in Black Novels and Newspapers.
Since their inception, Black papers have explored the tension between
U.S. and Diasporic-centered articulations of “national” identity.
Appearing in the pages of Freedom’s Journal, Frederick Douglass’s
Paper, the Christian Recorder, McGirt's Magazine and the
Pittsburgh Courier, serialized fiction takes up issues of resistance
in a global context. Instead of reading these republished texts as
discrete works of fiction, this project situates its analysis in
relation to—and recovers—the often explicit historical references that
its original reception communities or audiences would have recognized
and pays attention to the newspaper and reading culture of the papers