Courses of Study 2018-2019 
    Feb 20, 2024  
Courses of Study 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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ASRC 4311 - [Slave Narrative in African American Literature]

Fall. Next Offered: 2019-2020. 4 credits. Letter grades only.

R. Richardson.

The slave narrative is a foundational genre in American and African American literary and cultural history.  Beginning with its emergence in the late eighteenth century, the slave narrative is indispensable for understanding the development of African American literature.  With its oral foundations and influences by spiritual narratives and captivity narratives, the genre is unique for its origins in African American literature.  It established foundations for genres such as autobiography, the novel, and the short story in African American writing.  It is indispensable for reflecting on the themes and motifs that have recurred across African American literary history.  In this course, we will pursue a careful reading of a range of slave narratives, including selections by Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, William and Ellen Craft, Henry “Box” Brown, Elizabeth Keckley, and William Wells Brown, among others.  The class is committed to promoting critical thinking, reading and writing as we examine a range of issues over the course of our dialogue, including the controversies surrounding the narrative of Equiano, which question his identity as a native Nigerian and suggest that his birthplace was South Carolina.  We will examine some of the key characteristics of slave narratives and with this foundation of antebellum texts, also look at some of the early adaptations of the genre in novel and short story form, including Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave,” Charles Chesnutt’s “The Passing of Grandison,” and Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery. Additionally, our study of slave narrative writing will draw on the oral narratives collected by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s.  Yet, it is important to remember that the archive of slave narrative writing tells just a part of the African American story in the antebellum era.  For instance, the experiences of free blacks, which were also shadowed and shaped in some ways by the slave system, are also important to consider.  We will consider the slave narrative as a basis for thinking about broader questions related to family and genealogy.  The possibilities for researching and studying slave narratives have expanded exponentially in recent years.  We will make use of some of the vast technological resources that are now available for studying the slave narrative, while drawing on films that have focused on slavery, from Beloved to Dgango Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, along with critical dialogues related to the challenges of representing slavery in popular culture.  As a complement to our textual studies, we will also look at some of the artistic representations of the trauma of slavery in the work of artists such as Tom Feelings and Kara Walker and consider some of the local and regional sites in New York State related to slavery.

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