Date of Award

Fall 11-26-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Tanya Caldwell

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt

Third Advisor

Dr. Murray Brown


Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa may have had abolitionist motivations when writing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Written by Himself, but the function of the text is much different and self-serving. Specifically, in looking closely at the wording of the text, with its language of we versus they, in group versus out group, ours versus theirs, Equiano clearly feels he at no time belongs fully to any specific group or place; rather, he only partially belongs anywhere, and thus, creates this work of autobiography and appropriation of fiction and oral tradition to negotiate and cultivate his own liminal, or even heterotopic, space. In other words, I suggest he may have used the writing of this text to define his sense of self, creating a space in which he was both in control and fully belonged.