ENGL748I - Seminar in American Literature; Oceanic Studies, Middle Passages, and the Sea Narrative
0101 - Edlie Wong

Oceanic studies have forged new epistemologies and transnational frameworks for thinking about post-national cultural forms. From Fernand Braudel’s path-breaking spatiotemporal formulation of the Mediterranean, Paul Gilroy’s influential Black Atlantic, and Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s revolutionary Atlantic “hydrarchy” to what historian Matt Matsuda more recently called the “Oceanic Pacific,” these various aqueous turns have exerted a profound influence over literary, cultural, and historical scholarship. Increasingly, the oceans have become central to critical conversations about global movements, relations, and histories. This seminar will focus on a heterogeneous grouping of theoretical and historical works and cultural criticism. It is organized into three parts. Part 1: “Oceanic Studies and American Literature” will focus on nineteenth-century writers and the emergence of the American maritime narrative (Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville). Part II: “The Black Atlantic and Middle Passages” will focus on a range of black writers and their critical engagements with the histories and poetics of the African slave trade (Olaudah Equiano, Caryl Philips, Fred D’Aguiar, M. NourbeSe Philip, Saidiya Hartman). Part III: “Other Oceans: The Pacific and Indian Oceans” will focus on a range of writers who explore other oceanic histories of migration and displacement (Joseph Conrad, Amitav Ghosh, Yann Martel). Over the course of the semester, we will chart the development of sea fiction over the longue durée and consider how the deterritorializing impulses of the ocean might offer new ways of thinking about surfaces and depths and/or yield new methodologies for nonlinear or nonplanar thought.