English 250

Research Seminar: Black Reconstruction

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2007 Wagner, Bryan
Wagner, Bryan
M 11-2 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom?s Cabin; Helen Brown: John Freeman and His Family; John W. De Forest: Miss Ravenel?s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty; George W. Cable: The Grandissimes; Joel Chandler Harris: Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings; Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn; Frances Harper: Iola Leroy; Booker T. Washington: Up From Slavery; Thomas Nelson Page: Red Rock; Charles Chesnutt: The Marrow of Tradition; Ida B. Wells: Mob Rule in New Orleans; W. E. B. Du Bois: Black Reconstruction

There will also be a course reader with shorter works by Claude Bowers, Lydia Maria Child, Anna Julia Cooper, William Archibald Dunning, Rebecca Latimer Felton, Henry Grady, Albert Bushnell Hart, John R. Lynch, Kelly Miller, Mildred Thompson, Albion Tourg?e, Jared Bell Waterbury, Woodrow Wilson, and Carter G. Woodson.

Films include Birth of a Nation (D. W. Griffith), Within Our Gates (Oscar Micheaux), and Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming). "


Among the revolutionary processes that transformed the nineteenth-century world, none was so dramatic in its human consequences or far-reaching in its social implications as the abolition of chattel slavery,? the historian Eric Foner has written. And nowhere was this revolutionary process more dramatic, more all-encompassing, than in the United States?the only society in the history of the world where ex-slaves were granted citizenship rights and meaningful political representation directly on the heels of emancipation. Reconstruction was an exceptional event in world history, to be sure, but one that swelled with the main currents of its time. It was an experiment in statecraft that tried to remake society all at once, turning a traditional situation where individuals were restricted by inherited relations of dependency into a modern scene based upon the liberty to contract. This course aims to grasp Reconstruction, in all its complexity, as a narrative problem. We will be thinking in the abstract about the nature of historical transition, and in particular about the role of violence in times of transition, while we look to some of the major works from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries that turned Reconstruction into a story to be passed down. We will be interested in how these works sustain their most parochial commitments?blood, family, race, nation?by adapting the moral vocabulary of the marketplace, and we will try to understand how those commitments became variously inflected as romance, tragedy, and farce. We will pay close attention to the formal strategies (marriage plots, framing devices, analepses) that propel these narratives from slavery to freedom as well as to the developing conditions (the stratification of the book trade, the professionalization of historical research, the emergence of the cinema) that determined how those strategies could be employed.

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