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The College of Arts Sciences
Professor Gerard Aching

ASRC 6903: Africana Studies Graduate Seminar

Methodological Problems in Slave Narratives

Professor Gerard Aching;  T 12:20-2:15;  Goldwin Smith 156

What is a slave narrative? What makes a slave narrative abolitionist? This seminar examines the complexities of writing about enslavement and freedom as literary, philosophical, and cultural problems that their authors or narrators and their abolitionist supporters encountered in the production of these narratives. Topics to be covered include: the strategies that the narratives’ authors employ to revisit and narrate traumatic experiences; the narrators’ quests for empathy; didactic writing and sentiment; sympathy and philanthropic humanitarianism; and abolitionism and literature. Primary texts from the African diaspora include The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Juan Francisco Manzano’s Autobiography of a Slave, and Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave. These readings will be placed in dialogue with selected writings from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, W.E.B DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, David Brion Davis’ The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic, Alex Bontemps’ The Punished Self, McGary and Lawson’s Between Slavery and Freedom, Aching’s Freedom from Liberation, Cathy Caruth’s Trauma: Explorations in Memory, and others.