The publication history of Clotel, which was rewritten and rereleased three times in twenty-five years, puts considerable strain on conventional readings of sentimental activism’s focus on the exceptional individual and private resolution. In the patterns of repetition and transformation that emerge from Brown’s self-duplication, I therefore argue that Clotel and its successors provide a new historiography of systemic trauma that is highly relevant to current debates on redress and reparations in the United States. Read together, this interlinked series reshapes what narrative can be, producing scenes that refuse to be marshalled into the discrete chronology of simple plot and a host of characters whose lives overlap and blur in their shared circumstances and joint wounds.

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