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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2007

E 324 • Recovering Slavery: Trauma, Memory, and Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35790 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
PAR 303

Course Description

Will Not Count Toward a Major in English

This course proposes two primary objectives. Engaging Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever, it first critiques the very process by which archives hide their own raison d'etre (or what Toni Morrison calls "the escape from knowledge" that was required to erase so much history about race and slavery in the first place). In an opening section titled "foun(d)ling fathers," the course reveals previously undisclosed information (Garry Wills, Henry Wiencek) about Washington's and Jefferson's complex private and public relationships with slaves and slavery, that metaphorizes a nationalist patriarchy around suppression and denial. In its second objective, the course recovers the absented slave whose subjectivity is reclaimed through collective cultural memory practices (libation ceremonies, rituals, relics, art and artifice) precipitated by unresolved trauma. These are interdisciplinary in scope and take the form of slave museums (Henrietta Marie), heritage sites (Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Mount Vernon), archaeological digs (Jackson's Heritage; slave cemeteries), literature (Beloved, The Known World), and art. Ultimately, the course seeks to answer the following: what are the limits of archives, and what is the measure of recovery? Can the slave subject ever be fully reclaimed?

Grading Policy

Four critical essays (four pages each; typed; ds) 70%
Group presentations / class participation / reading quizzes 30%

Regular attendance is required. More than four absences will be sufficient grounds for failure in the course. The four allowed absences will include illness, deaths of relatives, and other emergencies. If you are more than five minutes late or leave before class ends (without permission), you will be counted absent for that class. You are responsible for all work covered in your absence.


Jacques Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness
Susan-Lori Parks, The America Play
Ishmael Reed, Flight To Canada
Charles Johnson, The Middle Passage
Toni Morrison, Beloved
E.P. Jones, The Known World
Boris Bittker, The Case for Black Reparations
Course pack (TBA)

Films: Long Night's Journey Into Day, Amistad, Sankofa, etc.
Art: Turner's Slave Ship; Noble's Modern Medea; Walker's Silhouettes


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