Past and Present
A Home in a Native Land: “Work(ing) On” Identity Formation
Looking back, everything seems clearer. All seems linear, cohesive, and most of all, logical. This perspective, called hindsight, not only veils but mocks past divisions, for these, far from being mere memories, remain living realities. Some may find a reminder of such past uncertainty in our closets: a high school T-Shirt. After years of asserting school yard positions, after romances and fights, what remains is a piece of clothing someone pulled over our heads. In my case, the shirt reads “Class of 2005”. Yet while my schoolmates’ experiences differed from mine, all our shirts bear the same imprint. That is how we, the graduates, are perceived, how we are labeled. Forgetting the process itself, and the divisions, we focus on its happy conclusion. Graduation made us; out of many diverging experiences, we were made one class of 2005. Now, school yard problems were painfully real, but hindsight blurs divisions – nostalgia does the rest. Did a T-Shirt really do away with the drama in the halls? Probably not – but as I said, in hindsight, everything seems clearer.
In this article, I focus on a period that – like high school to my class – was formative to the U.S. And while looking at Antebellum America1, I will try to avoid the seductiveness of hindsight. The purpose of this article is to analyze abolitionist literary strategies of identity formation in the context of Colonization, and my hypothesis concerning them is three-fold: (1) Abolitionist authors assented to a number of American...
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