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The Many Languages of American Literature: Interpreting Sojourner Truth’s Narrative (1850) as Dutch-American Contact Literature

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Building on the suggestion by the editors of the Routledge Companion to World Literature (2011) to re-frame the fi eld of literary studies from a global and transnational perspective, this article suggests a new approach to the concept of 'contact literature'. Reading American literature as 'contact literature' assumes that even if an American literary text is written in English, the other languages of the 'contact zone' in which the text originated and/or to which it alludes also impacted the writing process and therefore need to be included in the analysis. This new approach to the analysis of American literature is applied here to Sojourner Truth's famous slave narrative, published in 1850. Since Truth spent the fi rst 30 years of her life as a slave in a predominantly Dutch-speaking environment in the Hudson Valley, analysing her narrative as 'contact literature' implies a focus on Dutch cultural traces. This is done in two chapters - one dealing with Dutch language and literature, the other with Dutch Pietism and the slave narrative of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw - that present new perspectives on the impact of Dutch culture on Truth's Narrative.

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