“The Twice Told Tale”: Colonial Love Plots, Slavery, and Racial Ideology in Editorial Versions of John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (Honors)

Wygant, Christina D. "the Twice Told Tale": Colonial Love Plots, Slavery, and Racial Ideology in Editorial Versions of John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam. , 2010. Print.

This dissertation tests the potential of a new methodology to account for representations of human differences in editorial versions of John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam.  My contention is that any future venture in editing Stedman’s work should take into account the historical complexities of his era, in particular the changing representations of human difference, race and gender in the 18th century.  The dissertation draws on Roxann Wheeler’s multiplicity theory regarding perceptions of race in the 18th century and Gerard Genette’s theory of textual multiplicity generated by paratext.  It seeks to demonstrate that the contradictory accounts and shifting portrayals of Stedman’s relationship with female slave Joanna can only be understood in relation to the textual history of this work.

As I show in the first chapter, scholars as a whole have not taken the opportunity to comment on the discrepancies among Stedman’s various texts, nor have they provided a theoretical analysis of these differences.  Contemporary theorists have explicated  Stedman’s Narrative and other texts from the perspective of critical race theory alone without examining its textual history.  The Stedman case study offers a unique opportunity for a combined use of textual and post-colonial feminist theory in order to demonstrate and explore the limitations of past editorial decisions concerning his work and conversely the limitations of postcolonial theories that ignore textual variants.  The core of my argument is that Stedman and his editors have essentially produced multiple versions of Stedman’s relationship with Joanna that unintentionally carry sexist and colonialist legacies.  These representations are influenced by the cultural history in which the texts were written, edited, and published, which I explore in detail in the second chapter.  I argue that textual studies and post-colonial feminist theory need to be in conversation with one another in order to adequately identify and address these legacies.  I employ these theories in the third chapter to analyze the influence of paratextual frames on reader reception of different versions of Stedman’s Narrative, including the Prefaces to the 1790 manuscript and the 1796 edition, visual illustrations, media reviews, and editorial introductions.  In the fourth chapter, I examine different racial representations of Joanna in several textual witnesses of Stedman’s Narrative and diaries.

In the concluding chapter I explore the possibility of developing a new edition of Stedman’s work, using the parallel text format.  I review traditional editorial approaches to texts (including documentary editions, genetic editions, eclectic editions and versioning editions), as well as theories on and examples of available parallel-text editions. To ground this textual venture, I offer a fully annotated sample of a parallel text edition of a segment of Stedman’s original diaries and the flawed 1962 edition, and of sections from the 1790 manuscript and the 1796 first printed edition of the Narrative. This format highlights variances across versions, which is conducive to a socio-historical analysis of the text and therefore best suited to capture the shifting racial markers of difference in Stedman’s texts, drawing the reader’s attention to ideological variants.  The purpose of my sample edition is to encourage literary critics to explore the textual history of Stedman’s work and become aware of the diverse representations of colonial relationships in various textual witnesses.

Chair: Professor Raimonda Modiano (English; Textual Studies; and Comparative Literature)

Co-Chair: Professor David Allen (Gender, Women, and Sexuality; Nursing)

Research Type: 
Research Status: 
Completed/published