Reading Between the Lines: The Bible in the African American Neo-Slave Narrative

Katherine Clay Bassard


With a focus on Edward P. Jones’s The Known World (2003), James McBride’s Song Yet Sung (2008), and Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2003), the article examines how neo-slave narratives frame their discussions of the past in order to define future debates about race, culture, and academic politics. It is in looking back that these novels, ironically, carry forward the discussion of enslaved and free identities in biblical and extra-biblical contexts. Contemporary African American writers who situate their texts in the antebellum south are therefore shown to perform an important archival, hermeneutic, and cultural work.


King James Bible, slavery, African American literature, hermeneutics, neo-slave narrative

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