Tuesday, April 30th, 2-4pm, Université Paris Cité, OdG Building, Room 830, ‘African American Letters’, with Erin Forbes and Bridget Bennett

This meeting will host two talks about new work in African American Literature. 

Erin Forbes (University of Bristol), “The Convict’s Corpus in the late 18th Century US”

This talk will be drawn from the second chapter of Criminal Genius in African American and
U.S. Literature (Johns Hopkins UP, 2024). After briefly outlining the contours of the larger
book, the talk will offer a close reading of the print culture surrounding one late eighteenth-
century executed convict: Abraham Johnstone, a falsely accused free Black man found guilty of murder in New Jersey. Johnstone used his criminal status to communicate his vision of collective Black thriving, exemplified by his relationship with and final letter to his wife.

Erin Forbes — University of Bristol

Bridget Bennett (University of Leeds), “Epistolarity in the Slave Narrative: Love Letters
Written in Extremity.”

This talk develops an essay titled “England/New England: A British Quaker and a Fugitive
from Slavery Encounter Each Other on a Train, 1850” in Crossings in Nineteenth-Century
American Culture ed. Edward Sugden (Edinburgh UP, 2022). It focuses on an epistolary
exchange between Rynar Jones, and her husband Thomas H. Jones, collected towards the end of his 1850 narrative. The correspondence, during a separation along lines of freedom and enslavement, articulates the most profound expression of love and longing in a period of precariousness and danger. At every point in their construction, reception and subsequent reproduction in print, their letters were subject to scrutiny. Thomas’ letters had to be read to Rynar, who was not literate, while she used an amanuensis to dictate her letters. Knowing that her letters might be seized and read by his enslaver, they crafted an elaborate form of double speak in order creating the possibility of freedom.

Professor Bridget Bennett — recent publications | School of English | University of Leeds

Join via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 825 9987 1846
PIN: 381796