3345 – Venture Smith – Blog #4

As soon as I began reading Venture Smith’s A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, I noticed the text was far more approachable than those of Phillis Wheatley or Jupiter Hammon. Smith’s text was a relatively easy read, and very interesting as well. I felt that the text had a very epic feel to it, and I was reminded of this thought in Thursday’s class. Similar to the exercise with Phillis Wheatley and Mozart, Dr. May played us another orchestral piece that was composed the same year as Venture Smith’s text. The song started off extremely dramatic, with a slight silence followed by a crescendo. These crescendos appear throughout the song, just as silence begins to settle in. This style of music also struck me as epic, and I was able to picture Smith’s life to this. In my imagination, I was picturing the ominous silences as the struggles that Smith had to endure, whereas the crescendos represented Smith’s eventual overcoming of the situation. I also saw the deep, bellowing music as a representation of Smith’s physical stature, which was said to be quite large. Discussing the struggles that Smith went through, it is important to note his situation when compared to Hammon and Wheatley as I believe this gives great insight as to why I find Smith’s text incredibly accessible. Whereas Hammon and Wheatley were domestic slaves, Smith was a laborer. Much of the historical stories and facts are told about laborers, rather than domestic slaves. This immediately makes the text easier to identify for me, as I can recognize certain historical tidbits I had learned in high school. More interesting, however, is how some ideas between Hammon and Wheatley’s work are similar to Smith’s, but I found them easier to identify in Smith’s work. Where Wheatley would critique something but shroud it in her poetry, Smith states it clearly in his prose. Aside from the musical comparisons and the differences between Hammon and Wheatley, another topic of discussion had piqued my interest. In our discussion of internal and external focalization, Dr. May pointed out that while authors such as Hammon and Wheatley tended to use internal focalization, Smith’s text could be seen as more of external focalization. Throughout his text, Smith speaks quite bluntly about events which would normally create a rather emotional response. For example, when describing the death of his son, Smith mentions how he not only lost his son, but a bit of money as well. This emotional distance that Smith had from his text was quite puzzling at first, but I remembered that Dr. May had previously pointed out to our class that while the text was Smith’s life story, Smith had it written by an amanuensis. Due to this bit of information, I think that it is possible that because Smith was not penning the words of his text down himself, some of the emotional attachment or weight was lost when told through a third party. I am unsure whether or not Venture Smith published additional works of literature, however I find his story extremely interesting. As I mentioned earlier, the text is very accessible, and I think this text should be taught in middle school and high school as a way to build upon the limited focus on slave narrative in todays’ education.

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