Drawing upon three centuries of writings, this discussion-based graduate seminar tracks the development and circulation of black cultural expression and thought in a range of slave narratives, spiritual autobiographies, novels, captivity narratives, speeches and polemics from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. We will critically investigate the analytic shift from “roots” to “routes” as we read widely in the literatures, histories and theories of what Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall variously describe as the productive inter-culture of the black Atlantic world. In so doing, we will access the analytical utility of the “Atlantic” and “diaspora” frameworks. Does the “Black Atlantic,” unwittingly place, as Brent Edwards argues, an oceanic limit upon the dynamic social cartographies of black cultural production that are best understood as the “practice of diaspora”? We will pay particular attention to the influence of transatlantic slavery upon the development of these black cultural forms. Recollection and return continue to inform the ways later writers of the black diaspora use the literary “journey back” to
express a range of struggles with the persistent legacy of African enslavement in the Americas. How has the memory and history of slavery as a social system determined the rhetorical strategies, formal structures, and figurative language found in early black writing?
Course requires active class participation including in-class presentations on course materials, an annotated bibliography, and a final research paper.