ENGL368F - Special Topics in the Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora: Literature 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, purportedly 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. The class format will be primarily discussion, so you will be required to participate. Other requirements include participation on a panel, a mid-term exam, and three papers based on primary and secondary texts in the university's library and digital databases.