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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.1, 77 ~ 95, 2018
Title
William and Ellen Crafts’ Eternal Running as Fugitive Performance: From Slavery to Freedom in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
Jieun Park
abstract
This paper examines William and Ellen Craft’s Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860)―a narrative of the enslaved couple’s escape from Macon to Philadelphia in the guise of a white male master and a colored slave. Expanding Judith Adler’s notion of “travel as performed art,” my reading of Running focuses on the Crafts’ stratagems of transvestism―crossing boundaries not only of gender, but also of race, class, and disability. If travel can be understood as a form of performed art, then why not address a traveler as a performance artist? I present William and Ellen’s role-playing in Running as performers of crossing borders and categories, or, as “fugitive performers,” since the couple’s story never reaches its final arrival but narrates an eternal run-away, far more than “a thousand miles to freedom.” Using social stereotypes of race and gender to disguise, William and Ellen plot, write, choreograph, play, and recite on the moving stages and manipulate the others―especially white American audiences―who accompany the couple’s run-away and those who were responsible for the cultural drama―a tragedy of American slavery. Becoming “fugitive performers,” William and Ellen de-essentialize and debunk the nineteenth-century America’s firm belief in distinct color line between black and white, and in the high yet unstable bars between male / female, abled / disabled, master / slave, and freedom / slavery. The Crafts alert their contemporaries and readers by presenting the complex and permeable boundaries of race, gender, class, social and cultural ability.
Key Words
William and Ellen Craft, Fugitive Slave, Fugitive Travel, Fugitive Performance, Slave`s writing
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