This course will work within a historical framework beginning with the Colonial Period
and ending with the Harlem Renaissance. To understand Early African American Literature
one must begin to understand the monumental impact slavery has had on American culture.
Therefore, we will begin this course by studying the slave narrative and its effect
on the “peculiar institution” of slavery. We will interrogate the notion of freedom
that emerges in the nineteenth century and continues to develop and change in the
early twentieth century, paying particular attention to the complexity of the “double
consciousness” within African American conceptualizations of freedom. Themes we will
explore in the course include such markers of freedom as: literacy, voting rights,
domesticity, ownership of property and self, and the birth of the New Negro.
Tentative Reading List:
Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Nellie McKay—9780393977783
Clotel; or The President’s Daughter—William Wells Brown—9780312152659