02 MTH3 CAC 20018 MAZZAFERRO MU-204
New World Literature: Settlement, Slavery, Rebellion, Revolution
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries constitute a period of massive transformation, especially in North America and the Caribbean, where the creation of new political formations and new economies brought European settlers, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans into unprecedented contact, resulting in a "new world" for all. In this seminar, we will read colonial texts in various genres that represent and respond to these transformations, tracking the process of settlement and the establishment of the plantation slave system and, most importantly, the acts of rebellion and revolution that followed. In particular, we will focus on accounts of underclass resistance to colonialism: What literary strategies did elite writers use to represent the numerous outbreaks of sedition, mutiny, heresy, Native American warfare, and especially slave revolt that punctuated the colonies' early histories? In what ways did these representations uphold or disrupt long-standing assumptions about politics? And how do they relate to written accounts of the American and Haitian Revolutions at the period's end? Examining texts ranging from captivity narratives to novels to political reports to sermons to natural histories to witchcraft tracts to black Atlantic autobiographies, we will chart how European ideas and literary forms adapted to the New World's unique circumstances, especially its opportunities for unfamiliar knowledge, cultural intermixture, and spectacular violence.
Requirements will include regular attendance and active class participation, two 3-page papers, and a 10-12 page paper involving revision. This course requires no prior knowledge of colonial American literature, but it does demand a passionate interest in learning about the period and its writings.