Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Law, Body, Property: The 1850's

ENGL 799.401
instructor(s):

An exploration of the creative writing that took up issues of ownership and property especially related to slavery in the 1850s, a landmark period in the legal formation of racial identities, in the juridical conception of “raced” rights, and in the literary production of racial narratives by writers of both African and European descent in the United States.  Authors selected from Frederick Douglass (“The Heroic Slave”), Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), William Wells Brown (Clotel),  Frank Webb (The Garies and their Friends), Martin Delany (Blake), Harriet Wilson (Our Nig), Harriet Jacobs (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl), Henry Box Brown (Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown), Herman Melville (“Benito Cereno”), James Whitfield (America and Other Poems, and Frances Watkins Harper (Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects).  Readings will include legal cases (e.g., Somerset v. Stewart; The Slave, Grace; Scott v. Sandford), slave ship revolts (i.e., The Amistad and The Creole), state statues (e.g., Married Women Property Acts), and federal acts (e.g., “The Compromise of 1850"; “The Fugitive Slave Act 1850"), critical race theory, and feminist legal theory, along with selections from Putnam’s Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Weekly.