Graduate Summer 2024: Courtney Murray

The Hold: Black Femme Formations of Space, Text, and Being in the Long Nineteenth Century

Departments of English; Department of African American Studies

My dissertation reads the slave ship hold as a literary and print method through which nineteenth-century African American authors and editors fashioned alternative modes of African American and African diasporic sociality and being. I use a Black feminist material lens to demonstrate how these authors and editors used narratives of enclosure to critique pro- and anti-slavery propaganda and formulate their understandings of identity, space, interiority, and gender. Henry Box Brown, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, and others used hold spaces (e.g., attics, boxes, closets, and more) to develop a spatial politics of refusal, rebirth, and community. I trace the hold through their texts to unveil how these enclosed spaces reveal Black feminist spatial and literary methods, critiques, and experimentation in early Black print from the slave ship through the nineteenth century and beyond.