English R1A

Reading & Composition: Representations of Slavery in British Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2008 Jhoanna Infante
TTh 9:30-11:00 222 Wheeler Hall

Other Readings and Media

Behn, A.: Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave; Equiano, O.: An Interesting Narrative in the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Lunsford, A.: The Everyday Writer; Course Reader.


"Is it ethical, or even possible, to represent the trauma of slavery in the form of literature? Though representations of slavery are inherently problematic, they are an important part of British literary tradition. In this course, we will examine representations of slavery in British prose and poetic works from the eighteenth and eighteenth centuries. We will begin by reading Aphra Behn�s Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave (1688), in which the author gains entry into a male-dominated realm of letters by immortalizing her title character. Moving from Behn�s narrative, which appeared during the period of Britain�s domination of the Atlantic slave trade, we will turn to late eighteenth century abolitionist writing that sought to end what Anna Barbauld described as �Uncheck�ed�human traffic.� Like Oroonoko, abolitionist writers seem to intervene in, and enter into, the British literary tradition by condemning slavery and questioning their own (and any writer�s) ability to represent its horrors. Our readings from this period will include Olaudah Equiano�s An Interesting Narrative in the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1794), poems by Barbauld, Hannah More, and Mary Robinson, and prose by Thomas Clarkson. At the end of the semester, students will critique the 2007 film Amazing Grace, which marked the bicentennial of Britain�s abolition of the slave trade.

The writing requirement includes composing, and in some cases revising, five essays of varying length (2-4 pages). This course fulfills the first part of the undergraduate reading and composition requirement. "

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