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History & Memory in AFAM Women's Writing: Narratives and Neo-Narratives of Slavery

ENGL 281.401
MWF 11

Although the antebellum slave narrative originates the literary representation of blacks in American slavery, later writers were quick to appreciate the value of a continued re-narration of the slavery experience to a "true" history of Africans in America (of African Americans) and that the history of enslaved black women would be central in this project. From the post-Reconstruction period forward, African American writers repeatedly turned to this slavery re-narration as a way not only to rewrite the history of American slavery, then, but as a way to rewrite the history of African American community and family; of African American motherhood and womanhood. In this lecture/discussion course we will of course be concerned to evaluate these literary representations of American slavery and enslaved Americans; but of crucial interest will be questions about the uses of this history: the construction/reconstruction of historical memory; the construction/reconstruction of a literary tradition. Authors will include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Pauline Hopkins, Willa Cather, and Toni Morrison, among others, and we will view one or two films. Students will be asked to write at least bi-weekly response papers, three short (5-page) essays, and a longer essay at the end of the term.

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