ENGL428X - Seminar in Language and Literature; Color Lines and the American 1850s

Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s and Toni Morrison’s writings on the “color line,” this course brings together black and white writers of the highly charged 1850s and focuses on important literary exchanges, conflicts, shared concerns, and differences on such matters as slavery, race, and nation.  We’ll begin in the 1840s with Frederick Douglass and move to the Civil War, but the bulk of the texts we’ll consider were published during the crucial decade of the 1850s. Among the texts we’ll be reading are Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Dred, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave,” Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” selections from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and James Whitfield’s America, Frank Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends, and Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig. We will also read a number of primary and secondary works on slavery and race. Class presentations, short papers, and a research paper.