Another Offprint I Am Leaving in Salvador

Williams, Lorna V. “The Feminized Slave in G. de Avellaneda’s Sab.” REH 27 (1993): 3-17. Note its bibliography, too, which includes R. L. Jackson’s “Black Phobia and the White Aesthetic in Spanish American Literature,” Hispania 58 (1975): 467-80, and Martínez-Alier’s Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society. London: Cambridge UP, 1974.

See also: Paquette, Robert L. Sugar Is Made with Blood: The conspiracy of La Escalera and the Conflict Between Empires in Cuba. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1988.

Late 1830s: del Monte was urging manzano and Suarez y Romero to write their anti slavery narratives; G. de A. was formulating her own critique of slavery in Europe. It was actually a way for her to express the woman’s dilemma; G. equates the situation of women and that of slaves.

G was destined for a marriage of convenience; the 1839 version of her autobiography repeatedly mentiones the unhappily married women in her family and her own horror of marriage. She also felt morally and intellectually superior to the men to whom she was supposed to defer. Her family considered her literary inclinations to be dangerous, and even a “delito.” So in SAB, she tries to write a claim of autonomy for the different.

SAB is secretly noble, as she feels to be. And he is constantly associated with feminine activity — being a tour guide, serving meals, etc. — even though he is really an overseer. He is also chaste, like a woman, and emotionally vulnerable, like us, and also emotionally subservient — he does a lot of emotional work as well, and sacrifices himself, and so on.

Important: p. 8: “For her characters voice reservations that were widely held among the members of the Cuban ruling classes in the empirical domain. At the time when the novel was written and published, cases of interracial marriage were not considered to be individual instances of social equality, but rather to be a prefiguration of a widespread demand for emancipation among the island’s slave poulation. Consequently, slaveholders and other authority figures actively discouraged intermarriage because such visible manifestations of racial equality were taken to be contrary to the public interest (Martínez-Alier 20-76). This is why the union of Sab and Carlota, or even Teresa, is unspeakable — to contemporary readers it would have meant abolition (as it was a “metonymic sign of abolitionist intent [9]).

Sab is not a revolutionary leader, doesn’t declare himself to be an “hombre” and so on; feminization is not only a characteristic of a Romantic hero, but also an expression of the slave’s powerlessness.

Carlota is compared to the earth and made equivalent to Cuba. She, Sab, and nature all flow together in the text’s imagery. Enrique’s marriage to her would be a misappropriation.

Interesting: Sab, when he has the opportunity to kill or at least not to save Enrique, is impelled not to do so by his own internalization of his master’s voice.

Very interesting (14-15): Carlota reads Romantic novels to Sab, which teach him about unrequited and “impossible” love, i.e. teach him to accept his slave destiny. Williams’ phrase on 14 is “curtails his imaginative freedom.”

The effect os Sab’s letter, read by Carlota after his death, is to reaffirm her centrality and her importance (to him), at a time when her control of self and other has been displaced via marriage (and to a British person). So, the role of the slave, even in death, is to confirm the owner’s sense of importance.

[Note: Romantic heroes of the 1820s were feminized and in love with unattainable women because they were actualizing themselves, unfit for crass material life and a good thing, too!]

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