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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago


I find Stedman’s use of language and treatment of slaves very modern, given the time period during which he wrote his book. The fifth chapter of Stedman’s Narrative contains a relatively heartfelt and moving depiction of Stedman’s first meeting Joanna. It seems to me that describing Joanna in the way that Stedman does could stir up a bit of controversy – I can’t for the life of me believe that the majority of Europeans would take kindly to such a favorably voluptuous description. To his credit, it seems like Stedman realizes that as well. What strikes me as strange: The introductory chapter of the book talks about the discrepancies between Stedman’s personal journal and his “Narrative” on the topic of his sexual encounters. Evidently, his journal is a more matter-of-fact and emotionless chronicling of his exploits (see the Introduction, on the page appropriately numbered xxx), with “notes about dinner companions ... frequently complemented by mention of his sleeping partners.” It seems like Stedman is dangerously in the Rodney Dangerfield zone of getting no respect from anyone after combining the implications of his personal journal and his narrative. Does he want to be a sympathizer with the slave community and enjoy a “Suriname marriage” with a woman who (I have no doubt) he deeply cared about? Or does he want to walk the line and discuss his sexual encounters in terms of an economic exchange? As the introduction points out, in “Narrative,” “...the early stages of their relationship are rephrased ... to elevate Joanna from the role of a slave girl providing routine sexual services, as part of a commercial transaction, to the status of a pure and noble beauty.” Is it possible for Stedman to walk the line and still be looked at respectably? Do the changes between “Narrative” and Stedman’s personal journal ultimately matter, or are the discrepancies minor?


On the topic of Stedman, his four-paragraph Wikipedia entry is severely lacking. While mention of his narrative is included and referenced as influential, little is said about the piece (which actually has no Wikipedia entry of its own!). We should band together as a renegade group (which I've named xxPAUL'S CABALxx) and face this head-on.




I apologize in advance for focusing on the aesthetic of Stedman and not the content itself, but I was incredibly interested to find that this book was illustrated by William Blake.



The fact that someone like William Blake should be called upon to engrave and illustrate a narrative like Stedman's is confusing to me for a number of reasons. First, the two seem to be sort of diametrically opposed in many ways: creatively, and in terms of class and worldview to name a couple. And from what I've seen, there are differing viewpoints on the inclusion of Blake's illustrations in Stedman's Narrative. For example, Kevin Hutchings from the University of North British Columbia expresses his belief that Blake would look upon Stedman's narrative "with a certain amount of qualified admiration and approval." He argues that, because Blake would complete Visions about a year later, Stedman may have provided a context in which to write, explaining "Stedman touches upon many of the sexual concerns and issues Blake addresses in Visions: false modesty, chastity, adultery, harlotry, and the uninhibited gratification of sexual desire." On the other hand, [http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=H5xNMp1BfJvFmQ7PLHLyxpFTF2lQbDsybPgPHcv6R4zvtMs3hQJh!1437894956?docId=5002507968|Debbie Lee argued] in the "Wordsworth Circle" that the narrative presents "collaborative relationships between two personalities of such opposing natures that the end result was a gamble between utter disaster and pure brilliance." Her article goes on to explain the significance of Blake's portrayal of the monkeys (found in our Stedman on pages 65, 73 and, most alarmingly, 172) in relation to the narrative.


In conclusion, I'm still confused as hell and I need Paul to explain his opinion on the matter so I can agree with him and be done with it.






I thought it was interesting how Stedman portrayed his arrival to Dutch Guiana as a kind of arrival to a new world. It was as if he had traveled far from civilization and had discovered a mystical land full of exotic creatures, foods, women, and natives. The way he described Guiana was as very vivid. There was a footnote in the reading that caught my eye: "It is a true observation that the tropical maids and mosquitos generally attack the newly arrived Europeans by instinct, in preference to the West Indian settlers." Instinct is the primary word that caught me off guard. The women of Guiana fought not only for the affection of newly arrived Europeans but for husbands and officers as well. Wives were seen to outlive numorous husbands where husbands were never seen to outlive more than one wife. It is as if the roles were reversed in a way. Instead of Europeans siezing all that is exotic from these lands, it is the lands that swallow up the Europeans. There is a lust for what is not readily available on both sides.

Another interesting point made by Stedman was that "black men are not such brutes as the generality of white ones imagine". This relates back to James in the sense that James described that even in the early stages of the revolt, slaves did not stoop to the barbaric tortures of the white masters. This changed later, but it seems that Stedman was starting to realize the civilness of the slaves that other white men and women refused to believe existed.


Evan Gallagher



Stedman's Surinam, like the other texts we have read so far this semester, continues to blur the conceptions we have of the words "black" and "white." What we expect from this story is white plantation owners with black slaves. Instead, Stedman gives us a picture of blacks frighting blacks and blacks working with whites. The Rebels and the Rangers are both black, but have vastly different social contexts. Stedman himself depicts the dichotomy of the land. He goes on about how terrible the slaves are treated and understands that there would not be slave revolts if not for the treatment. Although he goes as far as to call some of the slaves beautiful (not only Joanna) and usually sees them in an extremely positive light, he is ultimately there to stop the slave rebelion and preserve the lifestyle.

I also found the hygiene differences between the people very interesting. The Europeans continuously get sick and die and the "cure" is taking a bath. When Stedman asks the black man on the boat how he stayed healthy, the man gave him a long speech about staying clean. It just strikes me as funny that the "civilized Europeans" were being taught hygiene by the "savage natives."

Erica Osterloo







I agree with Erica, and found it really interesting in some chapters where the emphasis was almost more on the white europeans who being described as suffering and dying off, even more so than the blacks. I was really interested by this phenomenon created in chapter 8 where Stedman focuses on each one of his men that has become ill and/or eventually died. It was almost as if the whites and blacks had switched places for a brief moment, where the Rebels were this illustrious force that the white men had to be wary of, and the white men were now the ones away from home, exposed to foreign disease and calamity. That is not to say that Stedman is not touching on the horror and distain that was imposed on the blacks, but it was just interesting in this chapter in particular, how there was a reversal in survival tactics, and for once it almost appeared like the white man would come out on the bottom.


Jillian Winn


I truly enjoyed this week’s reading and found the narrator to be at once respectable and disappointing. Throughout his story he repeatedly addresses the horrific treatment that the plantation owners display toward their slaves, which is to be hoped for. But he makes no mention of any open complaint against these awful actions; he only once intercedes on the behalf of a slave and he did not make too much of an effect. This instance is when he commented to a child’s father how rude it was for the child to slap his slave and the father made no apology for this. Also there was the episode of the narrator’s infatuation with Joanna, a beautiful slave girl who catches his attention. It may be a hackneyed argument but I would like to point out that the only reason this particular girl is of ay interest to him is because she is pretty. Had she not meet with his personal tastes in appearance her sad story would never been of any interest to him. This is also the condition for many other slaves: the handsome ones are treated in a better fashion than the others. So the speaker can congratulate himself on his charity toward this woman but I find it wanting in terms of generosity. My favorite part of the reading though appeared toward the beginning where we are told about the treaties made between the plantation owners and the runaway slaves. I believe it was the second treaty made and the first one that actually succeeded but the author states that he has never known a Negro to break his word; he makes no such claim for his own race.
Alyssa Dytko



Stedman presents to the reader his own perspective of the war in Surinam. A first hand account of how the slaves were treated, where the wealth came from and what kinds of people lived in the country at the time, is given by Stedman in the form of a novel. He places himself in the role of the main character and provides tales of atrocities, war and consumerism. As a “white man,” Stedman reveals his own ideas regarding war and slavery, showing that peace can only be reached through some suffering of one people or another. This “novel” way of story telling puts the reader in a different place than if Stedman just listed facts and dates. By using novel format, Stedman can create himself and those in his tale. He makes characters out of the people he encountered, making them more recognizable than just regular people who were part of history. They become History in this way, making them more real


While reading this, I am reminded of the stories I read when I was younger, and how they inspired me to become a writer. To have adventures of my own and to tell them to readers everywhere. Stedman, like the boy in the never ending story, sought to be an adventurer like the characters in the books he read. By going of to war, Stedman was given tales of adventure in which he himself was the central character. He utilized the narrative to tell people how it was, maybe exaggerating himself a little bit.


Also, Stedman provides a link to the past in the form of a Saramaka Rebel leader. Matt



I found the text online for Joanna's narrative.  The full text and plates are here:  Joanna    Evan G.







Stedman and Women (for Wikipedia) - Bryan D. Peach


John Gabriel Stedman was infatuated with women, even from a very early age.  According to Richard Price and Sally Price in the introduction to “Stedman’s Suriname,” he rarely passed up a sexual opportunity.  For example, as a young man in England, Stedman had concurrent affairs with his landlord’s wife and her maid until the landlady became jealous and threw both Stedman and the maid out at the same time (xvii).


Stedman’s sexual appetite continued through his Suriname expedition.  Frequent encounters with slave women began on the night he arrived in Suriname’s capital of Paramaribo and continued throughout his journey.  Stedman noted many encounters in his log, though never in explicit detail (xxx).

Unsurprisingly, the personal journal that Stedman kept (and the sexual encounters mentioned therein) varies quite a bit from his published narrative.  The image-conscious Stedman, with a wife and children in England, wanted to cultivate the impression of a gentleman rather than the womanizer he might be considered on the basis of his diary.  “Stedman’s Suriname” removes the depersonalized sex with slave women and replaces it with a greater emphasis on his romantic relationship with Joanna (xxxii).

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