Instructor: Shawn Salvant
Prerequisite: ENGL 1010 or 1011 or 2011; open to juniors or higher. Sophomore Honors students should email Prof. Salvant for a permission number.
This course provides a survey of eighteenth and nineteenth-century African American literature. We will examine early African American literature, reading work by authors such as James Gronniosaw and Phillis Wheatley with emphasis on their transatlantic production, religious themes, and contributions to the development of the African American vernacular tradition. We will study the African American oral and rhetorical traditions as exemplified in anti-slavery speeches and essays by Sojourner Truth, David Walker, Frederick Douglass and others. In a unit on the slave narrative, we’ll discuss the literary and political dimensions of this genre so influential to the development of 20th and 21st Century African American literature. We’ll conclude by examining early African American novels and novels of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era by such figures as Charles Chesnutt. Students will become familiar with the development of African American literary history and the recurring themes of the period as well as the literary and cultural significance of each text and author. We will also track the forces shaping this period of African American literature—historical and political movements (slavery, emancipation, reconstruction), modes of expression and production (literacy and orality, authentication), and literary forms (imagery, symbolism, narrative, genre, style). Primary texts will be supplemented by scholarly secondary readings. Final grade will be based on quizzes, discussion question assignments, midterm exam, participation, 1-2 short essays, final paper and/or a final exam.