In the latest Study of the South essay, Sarah Payne looks at how recent representations of slavery have provoked discussions about who should represent black pain and oppression and what purpose such representations serve. The tour of Whitney Plantation, which opened in 2014 in Wallace, Louisiana, stands out as the only plantation tour in the US dedicated to depicting the antebellum South entirely from the perspective of former slaves. Using examples from well-known novels such as Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Sarah Payne demonstrates how the Whitney, like these textual narratives of slavery, employs bodily epistemology, sentimentalism, a white authenticating presence, and a focus on authenticity, making neoslave narratives useful lenses through which to read the immersive experience of the Whitney’s unique plantation tour.
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About the Author
Sarah Payne is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital Liberal Arts at Middlebury College. She earned her PhD in English literature from Northeastern University. Her dissertation analyzes the refusal of racial identity in twentieth-century women’s writing, focusing on Harlem, the US South, and the Caribbean. Her research interests include southern literature, gender and sexuality, and digital humanities.