Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Jorge Camacho


In this dissertation, I aim to demonstrate that the figure of the trickster is a key trope for the achievement of agency by the narrators of the three slave narratives Autobiografia de un esclavo, "Routes in North Africa by Abu Bekr es siddik" [sic], and Biografia de un cimarron. I also intend to show how both the realization of the trickster's role and the achievement of agency to which such a role is oriented are dependent on the use of the four Afro-Caribbean meta-tropes ndoki, nkisi, nganga, and simbi. To demonstrate this, I plan to analyze these four meta-tropes; their correspondence with the four master tropes--metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony; their roles in the process of composing a slave narrative; and their functions in each narrative. To underscore the relevance of trickster figures to the two cycles of meta-tropes, I will address the correspondence between epistemological irony and certain trickster figures including Yoruba trickster Eshu, the African-American trickster known as the Signifying Monkey, and the culminating Afro-Caribbean meta-trope simbi. More specifically, I will explain how each figure may be said to subsume the conflict between ideological irony and epistemological irony, which ultimately leads to the renewal of the cycle of tropes. I will analyze the Ifa divination system of the Yoruba religion and explain how its communicative protocol and semiotic implications parallel the functions of the master tropes and the narrative techniques used in slave narratives. In addition, I hope to explain how--due to their potential for classification, alteration, perpetuation,

and destruction--racial categories, slaves, and texts may all be said to function as tropes. Finally, I hope to show how the protective strategies used by African diasporic communities for the purpose of cultural preservation relate to the inherently figurative nature of language.


© 2013, David Sebastian Cross