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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Keith M Feldman
ENGL 361
Seattle Campus

American Political Culture: After 1865

American literature in its political and cultural context from the Civil War to the present. Emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to American literature, including history, politics, anthropology, and mass media.

Class description

“American Exits: Abolition and Exodus”

While the national narrative of the United States as a “nation of immigrants” has routinely turned to the biblical figure of the “Promised Land” to explain its exceptional qualities, it has persistently run aground when faced with the centrality of racial slavery to its history. The figure of “Exodus,” with its allusions to enslavement and escape, freedom and fugitivity, diaspora and nation formation, has framed some of the nation’s most powerful counter-narratives. This reading-intensive undergraduate course will turn to recent scholarship in African American studies to help us understand the Exodus figure as central to post-1865 black culture. In particular, we will consider the various ways Exodus has animated abolitionist thought from the wake of racial slavery in the 1860s to the wake of the civil rights movement in the 1970s. Such thought, we will see, registers shifting understandings of race, nation, and empire, geography and history, tradition and modernity. Our path will follow Exodus where it takes us, to Haiti and Jamaica and Cuba, to Monrovia, Addis Ababa, and Cairo, to the plantations, prisons, and cities of the United States, to sites and spaces unmoored from the nation-state’s powerful gravity.

Our task, then, is three-fold: to develop critical tools to read literary, visual, musical, theoretical, and social texts at the intersection of narrative form and historical analysis; to survey the cultural history and some of the major texts of Pan-Africanism, black nationalism, and black internationalism from Reconstruction through the end of the civil rights movement; and to develop a working knowledge of some key texts in contemporary literary and cultural theory that help us think through the bounds and binds of American political culture. Writers may include: Amiri Baraka, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Octavia Butler, Frederick Douglass, David Graham Du Bois, Shirley Graham Du Bois, WEB Du Bois, Brent Hayes Edwards, Marcus Garvey, Paul Gilroy, Eddie Glaude, Stuart Hall, Pauline Hopkins, Zora Neal Hurston, CLR James, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Toni Morrison, Sun Ra, Ishmael Reed, Cedric Robinson, David Scott, Michelle Stephens, Scott Trafton, and Cynthia Young.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Keith M Feldman
Date: 04/30/2008