Driving home today from class I thought about the fact that 1) here we are in the middle of Black History Month (can somebody tell me why BHM is in February, the shortest month of the year?) having just completed a barnstorming tour of blackface minstrelsy and 2) we’ve begun a unit on zombies while Haiti, whose folk legends gave birth to that odd figure, lies in ruins.
Today we talked about “the implicit addressee” of autobiography and how that category differs from a “reading community”– the flesh and blood readers who pick up works such as Equiano’s Interesting Narrative and Black’s You Can’t Win. Briefly, the addressee is the one to whom the text is written, an interlocutor. There are many different sorts of addressees according to the autobiography under consideration. Among Equiano’s addressees are the British political elite whom he wishes to convince of the depravity of chattel slavery. Jack Black, on the other hand, seems to be addressing the middle classes– those who might be intrigued by the arcane society of “low life” America, who might see the need for penal reform or simply find the ways and means of the shadow economy enticing. In the words of Smith and Watson (2001)