Alice L Pedersen
Advanced study in American literature concentrating on individual writers, literary movements, specific critical approaches to literature, or literary canons and their critics.
In this class, we'll examine the enduring legacy of the US slave narratives. A "slave narrative" is most often a first-person testimonial that recounts the personal journey from slavery to freedom; they begin with the words "I was born", and conclude with assimilation into free northern society. The antebellum narratives were published with the intention of conjuring anti-slavery feeling in the reading public, and were circulated in the pre-Civil War days of protest and agitation. However, the literary form has continued to endure and evolve, even after the end of the war and the advent of emancipation. In this class, we will trace the ways in which the "slave narrative" form has been used, reworked, and contested throughout the 20th and 21st centuries in order to (re)write black humanity, contest dominant modes of historiography, and call attention to unjust racial economies.
Students should be prepared to discuss race, gender, and violence in respectful and engaged dialogue. Opportunities to connect historical narratives with contemporary events will be plentiful. Classes will mainly be run as a "seminar", in which students actively lead discussion and contribute to one another’s thinking.
Student learning goals
To explore the literary and cultural inheritance of the United State slave narratives.
To create a respectful and engaged classroom community through dialogue and collaboration.
To engage questions of race, gender, class, and the American narrative of history in order to better understand our present moment.
General method of instruction
This class will be reading heavy, with daily reflective writing assignments. Students are expected to arrive to class having not only done the reading, but thought about it, prepared questions, and be prepared to engage in discussion.
No prerequisites, but a background in US History, literature, and/or African-American Studies will help. Please be prepared to read several hundred pages per week.
Class assignments and grading
Short daily writing assignments; one longer analytic paper; and a final creative project.