This seminar will deal with the autobiographical accounts of African-American slaves. Slave narratives were a key political instrument of the abolitionist movement, and as such they became a highly ... read more
This seminar will deal with the autobiographical accounts of African-American slaves. Slave narratives were a key political instrument of the abolitionist movement, and as such they became a highly popular genre before the Civil War but fell into neglect during the Reconstruction. Their recognition and incorporation into the canon of American literature came about only at the end of the twentieth century. These texts are considered not only as historical sources documenting one of the darkest chapters of American history but also as the origins of African-American literary production. Understood as expressions of emancipation from bondage, they were written in a state of tension between source patterns of white literary traditions and the quest for an individual voice and self-representation of African-Americans. Focal questions of the course will cover such notions as race, gender, authorship, life writing, genre traditions, orality, and performance.
The course readings will trace the development of the narratives across three historical periods: late eighteenth-century narratives that reach back into the colonial period, e.g. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), antebellum narratives, e.g. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), and accounts written/recounted after the Civil War, e.g. oral accounts collected as part of the Federal Writers' Project the during the 1930s. Students are recommended to buy the following anthology: Andrews, William L., and Henry Louis Gates, eds. Slave Narratives. New York: Library of America, 2008.