Despite the fact that the American institution of slavery prohibited the majority of African Americans from acquiring reading and writing skills, there nevertheless developed a remarkably rich body of Black literature throughout the 19th century. In this class, we study several fictional texts by Black authors in order to explore the relationship between the fast-changing socio-political contexts that shaped them and their modes of narration, as well as their imaginative and aesthetic expressions. We will begin with Frederick Douglass’s revision of his first slave narrative as a work that enhances this dominant Black genre of the first half of the 19th century, offering an entry into a period of a much more variegated literary production. Guiding questions for our seminar are: What are these novels’ major concerns regarding the social place and civil participation of Blacks in (postbellum) America? How does Black fiction represent the tension between socio-economic progress and the burdens of a “double consciousness”? In what ways – discursively and imaginatively – do authors articulate the concerns, visions, and struggles of Blacks at the time?
Please note: This course will take place online. Please check for news and updates on Stud.IP and the syllabus once it is available. Active participation is mandatory, also in online class sessions.
Please purchase and read the following primary texts:
- Frederick Douglass, My Freedom and My Bondage. 1855. W.W. Norton, 2020. [preferably] https://www.wwnorton.co.uk/books/9780393923636-my-bondage-and-my-freedom.
- Harriet E. Wilson. Our Nig: Sketches From the Life of a Free Black. 1859. Ed. by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Richard J. Ellis. New York: Vintage, 2011.
- Charles W. Chesnutt. The Marrow of Tradition. 1901. W.W. Norton, 2012. [preferably if you manage to get a hold of it; if that is not possible, choose an edition that includes an introduction] https://www.wwnorton.co.uk/books/9780393934144-the-marrow-of-tradition.
As the CvO-bookstore has closed, please make sure that you order these novels as soon as possible.