Mary Seacole's memoir Wonderful Adventures is recognized for its negotiation of various genres of Victorian writing, including autobiography, travel writing, the slave narrative, and a burgeoning Caribbean tradition of letters. It is a text which is usually interpreted through conventions of Empire, or through the lens of Postcolonial studies. Attempting to bridge this either/or approach, this article focuses on Seacole's construction of narrative commonalities: I ask, why would a woman so clearly bent on defying the limitations placed on her by gender and race, and whose achievements appear so exceptionally individual, undergird her narrative with constant references to collective identities—often in their most stereotypical abstractions? To answer this question, I engage in close readings that explore the tension between the typical and the specific though Seacole's use of terminology, focalization and passive voice, and the repeated use of antiphonal structures such as an AAB pattern. I show how Seacole's self-representation, and her reference to black communities and individuals, draw on trickster sensibilities, thus expanding previous readings of her text that consider her either subversive or complicit in the imperial project. I suggest that Seacole injects Jamaican and black Atlantic sensibilities into her text, even as she uses Victorian rhetorical devices, making the two traditions complementary—as they seem to be in her life.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory