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International Journal of Literary Culture / Internationale Zeitschrift für literarische Kultur

Ed. by Biti, Vladimir / Liska, Vivian

CiteScore 2018: 0.12

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.122
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.329

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Volume 53, Issue 1


Mimetic Desire and the Complication of the Conventional Neo-Slave Narrative Form in Edward P. Jones’s The Known World

Ignatius Chukwumah
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University Wukari, Taraba State, NigeriaFederal UniversityDepartment English and Literary StudiesWukariNigeria
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Published Online: 2018-06-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2018-0002


When critics declare that Edward P. Jones’s The Known World represents moral turpitude, capitalist proclivities, slavery, and whittling of white supremacy, their assertions are in order. But they often miss accounting for how The Known World, which bears some indices of the neo-slave narrative owing to its appropriation of the incidents of slavery in a novelistic platform, complicates its sub-tradition. This work investigates the text’s two-fold complication. First, Jones complicates the neo-slave narrative form by depicting slavery from a little known perspective of intra-racial slavery amongst black people. Then, he casts a white character, and not a black one, in the mold of a classical tragic hero. Mimetic desire, René Girard’s concept for an individual’s imitation of a prior model’s behavior, is drawn on to bare characters’ actions that accentuate both strands of complication. As the basis of all human action that includes rivalry, violence, and scapegoating, mimetic desire unravels the ‘mystery’ surrounding the sort of slavery overwhelmingly acknowledged by critics as untraditional in The Known World and the tragedy, also unique to the neo-slave narrative form, it gives rise to.

Keywords: Edward P. Jones; mimetic desire; The Known World; the neo-slave narrative

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About the article

Published Online: 2018-06-05

Published in Print: 2018-06-04

Citation Information: arcadia, Volume 53, Issue 1, Pages 89–104, ISSN (Online) 1613-0642, ISSN (Print) 0003-7982, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2018-0002.

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