Raymond Williams' 18th-Century: Part 1, Black Atlantic Abolition
This course is a survey of popular Afro-British and anti-slavery literature of the long eighteenth century, beginning with Aphra Behn’s “royal slave” novella Oroonoko (1688) and ending with Mary Prince’s The History of Mary Prince (1831). It approaches the period as a cultural history of slavery, gender, and race, in which developments in the Atlantic colonies redefined English class conflicts and land relations at home and abroad. Drawing on Raymond Williams’ theories of culture and capitalism, including his much-cited and adapted concepts of “structure of feeling” and “keywords,” the course will pair selected essays by Williams with a range of eighteenth-century literary texts across the genres of poetry, drama, the novel, and travel writing. Williams invited literary critics to consider the large-scale social and economic transitions, particularly in land relations, that were crucial to the formation of the literary culture of eighteenth-century Britain. His scholarship also attended to the formal and literary mediations that allow us to generate a vital sense of that historical moment. In light of recent reformulations of Keywords by scholars in American, African American and Asian American studies, students will develop their own keyword research project drawn from the eighteenth-century vocabulary of slavery/ anti-slavery.