Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
english masthead
english masthead
Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2004

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

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32845 MWF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 105

Course Description

For many African Americans, the color line remains the dominant issue of the twenty first century, due largely to unresolved issues pertaining to slavery. Demonstrating the vestiges of cultural trauma—Ron Eyerman’s “dramatic loss of identity and meaning [and] a tear in the social fabric”--dispersed slave descendants desperately seek recovery and (dis)closure, whether monetary restitution, reparations and apologies from governments involved in the slave trade, artifacts, and memorabilia. Yet, such recovery, in effect, troubles the archives, calling attention to exclusionary practices in historical compilations.

This course therefore 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 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, heritage sites, archaeological digs, literature, 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) 60%
Group Presentations/class participation 30%
Reading quizzes 10%

Attendance: More than four absences will be sufficient grounds for failure in the course.


Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America; Garry Wills, “Negro President”: Jefferson & the Slave Power; Jennifer L. Eichstedt and Stephen Small, Representations of Slavery: Race and Ideology in Southern Plantation Museums; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Steven Weisenburger, Modern Media: A Family Story of Slavery and Child Murder from the Old South; Fred D’Aguiar, Feeding the Ghosts; Ron Eyerman, Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity; Course pack (TBA)

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


bottom border