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African-American Literature

ENGL 081.401
TR 9-10:30

In this course, we will explore representations of slavery and freedom, beginning with slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs and concluding with contemporary novels by Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler. Our task will be to explore how the multiple meanings of the term slavery and freedom resonate in literature, films, and song by and about Afro-Americans, and how these meanings impact the representations of contours of black identity in terms of such elements of identity as race, gender, citizenship, class, and sexuality. We will seek answers to a number of crucial questions, including: how are notions of slavery and freedom gendered? how similar are contemporary depictions of slavery and freedom to those of the slave narrative? and why are contemporary intellectuals so fascinated with the subject? Course requirements: two 4-6 page essays; a final examination; frequent quizzes; and active class participation.