Yipu SuFollow

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

M.A. Essay

First Advisor

James. E. Dobson

Second Advisor

Darryl Barthe


The supine position that characterized the existence of the captive Africans on the slave ship, “The Brookes,” haunted the two female autobiographers of the two mid-nineteenth-century slave narratives/autobiographies this essay discusses. Both Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs voluntarily adopted the supine position as their status of living when resisting sexual violence in slavery, which nevertheless exhausted their flesh. This essay draws on Hortense Spillers’ theory of flesh/body antithesis and Saidiya V. Hartman’s theory of gender construction in slavery to discuss the nature of intended exhaustion. This essay examines to what extent was the strategy of intended exhaustion efficient for both Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs. This strategy did not avoid capitalistic exploitation and caused irreversible harm to their bodies. However, it created some chances that finally led to their escapes, and opened a narrow opportunity for identity reinterpretation, which brought a reversal to the racialized and gendered image shaped by their enslavers.