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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2007

AMS 370 • Slavery Across the Genres-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29445 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
CAL 419

Course Description

The practice of race-based slavery and its memory and legacy have permeated American political, cultural and social life from the colonial period to the present. Far from being a mere blight on an otherwise pristine set of founding values encompassing freedom, equality, and the sanctity of private property, the peculiar institution has informed the articulation and enactment of these ideals at their core. As historians have long demonstrated, American notions of liberty depended on the investment of the founders in a regime of chattel slavery; expressions of political equality were hammered out alongside and in conversation with an ideology of white racial superiority; and legal definitions of and protections for private property arose within a system where the bodies of black people were recognized as objects of property.

This course will look at the institution of slavery through a variety of lenses. The backbone of the course will consist of six narrative accounts of slavery, its circumstances and effectsone autobiographical, Douglass' Narrative of the Life, and five fictional, Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin; William Faulkners Absalom, Absalom!; Toni Morrisons Beloved; Charles Johnsons Middle Passage; and Edward P. Jones The Known World. We will supplement these long readings with shorter pieces of various kinds: newspaper advertisements, plantation ledgers, laws, court cases, short stories, photographs, films, diaries, travelers accounts, and oral testimony among others. As we read these accounts and descriptions of slavery, we will consider a variety of questions. What legal, political and historical artifacts and practices have helped shape the memory of slavery? What is at stake for differently placed writers in telling the stories of slavery? How have various writers situated the practice and experience of slavery within prevailing and/or alternative systems of morality? How do the artistic goals and narrative choices of these writers/artists resonate within their various political, legal and social contexts?


Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! Toni Morrison, Beloved Charles Johnson, Middle Passage Edward P. Jones, The Known World And a course reader with shorter readings


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