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Undergraduate English Courses Spring 2018

358:206 "Uncommon Sufferings": Early African American Literature

03  TF3  CAC  14832  MAZZAFERRO  SC-204

“Uncommon Sufferings”: Early African American Literature

This seven-week mini-course (offered for 1.5 credits) will introduce students to the fundamentals of literary studies through the earliest works of African American literature. We will explore how people of African descent living in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century North America and the Caribbean made sense of what one such writer called their “uncommon sufferings.” In the process, we will consider the relationship between forced migration and transatlantic mobility, the role of literacy and authorship in the quest for freedom, the intersection of race and gender, and the place of Christian theology, capitalist enterprise, and revolutionary violence in black antislavery discourse. Our readings will likely include slave narratives by Olaudah Equiano, Venture Smith, Mary Prince, and Frederick Douglass; poetry by Phillis Wheatley; political speeches and pamphlets by Ottobah Cugoano, Toussaint L’Ouverture, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet; and a spiritual autobiography by John Marrant. We will conclude with Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel A Mercy, a contemporary reflection on early African American experience set in the late seventeenth-century New World.