The Nineteenth-Century Slave Narrative


The slave narrative is an important literary form, which was widely read in the nineteenth century, and which has been particularly influential in the development of African American, Caribbean, and Black British literary traditions. By recounting their own experiences, freed and escaped slaves not only played a crucial role in bringing about the abolition of slavery, but also asserted their right to a voice and an identity, which slavery and racism sought to deprive them of. Furthermore, many authors of slave narratives travelled across the Atlantic, and the slave narrative is an inherently transatlantic form of writing, linking Africa, the Americas, and Europe.

In this day school, four leading scholars of the slave narrative will look at the distinguishing features of the form, important examples of it, and some of the ways in which it has influenced later and contemporary literature. Throughout the day, you will have plenty of opportunities to raise any questions you have, whether you are attending in person or online.

Programme details


Introducing the Slave Narrative: Literature and Emancipation
Sarah Meer

Tea/coffee break

"I never knew rightly that I had much sin till I went there...": Herstory, History and Testimony of Mary Prince
Marl’ene Edwin

Lunch break

What We Do Not Know about Ellen and William Craft, Fugitives from Slavery, and Why That Matters
Barbara McCaskill [presenting remotely]

Tea/coffee break

Contradictions, Complexities and Complexion in Mary Seacole's Wonderful Adventures
Laura Fish

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £75.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot Lunch (three courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Prof Sarah Meer


Sarah Meer teaches English at the University of Cambridge. She has published a number of articles on slave narratives and abolitionist writing, and the books Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy, and Transatlantic Culture in the 1850s (2005), and American Claimants: the Transatlantic Romance, c. 1820-1920 (2020). She also co-edited the volume Transatlantic Stowe: Harriet Beecher Stowe and European Culture (2006), and is currently editing a special issue of the journal Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Film (for December 2022).

Dr Marl'ene Edwin


Marl’ene Edwin is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.  She is a Senior Fellow of the HEA and a Churchill Fellow.  Her research interests are Caribbean Creole Languages and Oral Literature.  She is the convenor for the postgraduate module Literature of the Caribbean and Its Diasporas taught on the MA in Black British Literature and the MA Literary Studies: Caribbean Pathway. 

Barbara McCaskill


Barbara McCaskill is Professor of English at the University of Georgia and associate academic director of the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts.  Her recent books include The Magnificent Peter Thomas Stanford, Transatlantic Activist and Race Man with Sidonia Serafini (University of Georgia Press, 2020) and her monograph Love, Liberation, and Escaping SlaveryWilliam and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory (University of Georgia Press, 2015). She has co-edited with Caroline Gebhard the forthcoming 1880-1900 collection of original essays for the African American Literature in Transition series (Cambridge University Press).  She co-curates the sites Digital Clinton, about the formerly enslaved Ellen Craft’s middle Georgia birthplace during the nineteenth century, and Black Activism: A Transatlantic Legacy.  She is co-principal investigator for Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark, a multiyear project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, consisting of public conversations, experiential learning classes, and artist residencies.  In 2019, she was named recipient of the Lorraine A. Williams Leadership Award from the National Association of Black Women Historians.

Dr Laura Fish


Laura Fish is a writer and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Northumbria University, where she currently leads the MA in Creative Writing. She has over 10 years’ experience in broadcast television and radio. Her first novel, Flight of Black Swans (Duckworth: London, 1995) is set in Aboriginal Australia. Her second novel, Strange Music, (Jonathan Cape 2008; Vintage, London 2009) was Orange Prize Listed 2009; nominated for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2009; and selected for Pearson Edexcel's Black British Writing A level reading guide 2017/18. The book offers a fictional exploration of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s family from the Creole and black enslaved woman’s perspective. Her third novel, Lying Perfectly Still, (extract in Johannesburg Review of Books, 2017) has twice been SI Leeds Literary Prize listed (2018 and 2020).

Dr Ben Grant

Course Director and Chair

Ben Grant is a Lecturer in English Literature in the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford. He has a research background in postcolonial studies and cultural translation. His first book, Postcolonialism, Psychoanalysis and Burton: Power Play of Empire (2009), was about the iconic Victorian explorer and translator, Richard Francis Burton, who began his career as a spy in British India. Ben is also interested in all forms of brevity in literature, and his second book, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (2016), aims to give a consolidated picture of the exciting and often marginalised genres of the aphorism and related short forms, such as the proverb and the fragment. Ben is currently working on life writing and autobiographical fiction, particularly in the work of Jenny Diski.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.