ENGL623 - Readings In 18th Century English Literature: Literatures Of The Early Black Atlantic

Some are born with identities; some achieve identities; and some have identities thrust upon them. During the long eighteenth century, millions of men, women, and children were forced from their homes in Africa to cross the Atlantic ocean to become slaves in the Americas. This course will study the ways in which that crossing affected the few among those millions who found a voice through literacy. We shall consider factual and fictional texts produced in North America, Britain, and Africa to discuss the ways historical figures and imaginary characters assert, reclaim, or accept economic, ethnic, gendered, political, religious, and/or social identities, either by choice or imposition. An emblematic figure was Ignatius Sancho, born on the Middle Passage around 1729. Authors and subjects, most of African descent, will range from the more familiar--Oroonoko, Wheatley, Jefferson, Equiano--to the less well known--Briton Hammon, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Ignatius Sancho, John Marrant, Belinda, David George, Boston King, John Gabriel Stedman, and Mary Prince.

 Primary texts will probably include Behn, Oroonoko (Norton), Carretta, ed. Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the Eighteenth Century (Kentucky), Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (Penguin), Stedman, Stedman's Surinam (Johns Hopkins), The History of Mary Prince (Michigan), Wheatley, Works (Penguin), Sancho, Letters (Penguin), Cugoano, Thoughts and Sentiments (Penguin), Philip Quaque, The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque, the First African Anglican Missionary, and Krise, ed., Caribbeana. Because many of the primary texts have become available only very recently, a number have negligible critical histories. All theoretical and critical approaches are welcome in the seminar. Graded assignments will include class participation, oral and written reports, and a seminar paper.