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Empire and Slavery in 18th Century Atlantic Writing

ENGL 241.301
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

As 18th-century writers and thinkers well knew, the rise of the British empire was inseparable from the growth of the slave trade and the exploding value of the sugar produced on Caribbean plantations. Our course examines the many ways that literary works from Great Britain, its Atlantic colonies, and the early United States presented the relations between empire and slavery. We will explore such questions as: How did writers and artists depict the array of new commodities that slave labor made available to consumers throughout the empire? How did the growth of colonial slavery influence the creation of new literary forms in the metropole (London)? How did it help shape a distinctive literary culture in the colonies themselves? How did late 18th-century authors struggle to develop politically effective forms of anti-slavery writing, and to affirm their basic faith in the benevolence of the empire? How did the narratives of "Black Atlantic" writers advance complex arguments for national and imperial citizenship? How was slavery portrayed in an era that witnessed colonial revolts in North America and Haiti? Authors might include Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Moses Bon Saam, Anna Barbauld, James Grainger, Olaudah Equiano, Ottabah Cuguano, Phyllis Wheatley, Susana Rowson, Mary Hassal, Royall Tyler, and John Stedman.