Joycelyn K. Moody, Ph.D.
Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature; Director, African American Literatures and Cultures Institute

Sentimental Confessions: Spiritual Narratives of Nineteenth-Century African American Women

Sentimental Confessions is a groundbreaking study of evangelicalism, sentimentalism, and nationalism in early African American holy women's autobiography. At its core are analyses of the life writings of six women--Maria Stewart, Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, Nancy Prince, Mattie J. Jackson, and Julia Foote--all of which appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. Joycelyn Moody shows how these authors appropriated white-sanctioned literary conventions to assert their voices and to protest the racism, patriarchy, and other forces that created and sustained their poverty and enslavement. In doing so, Moody also gives us a glimpse at the wealth of insights to be gained from these kinds of writings if we were to acknowledge the spiritual convictions of their authors--if we read them because (not although) they are holy texts. Similarly, Moody argues for new ways of looking at dictated narratives that do not relegate them to a status below self-authored texts. Helping to recover a neglected chapter of American literary history, Sentimental Confessions is filled with insights into the state of the nation in the nineteenth century.

Available online here.

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