English R50

Freshman and Sophomore Studies: Slavery in British and American Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2009 Infante-Abbatantuono, Jhoanna
Infante, Jhoanna
TTh 5-6:30 225 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Behn, A.: Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave. Equiano, O.: An Interesting Narrative in the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Jacobs, H.: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Course Reader.


The representation of slavery in Anglo-American literature between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries raises a number of interesting questions.  Is it possible to represent the trauma of slavery in the form of literature? What literary and rhetorical techniques did authors use on both sides of the abolition debate?  How did an author’s class, race, religion, or politics influence his or her arguments for or against slavery?  Did the collaboration of English and American abolitionists challenge national boundaries?  We will begin by reading Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave (1688). 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 and nineteenth-century abolitionist writers who sought to end the trade or slavery itself. Our readings from this period will include Olaudah Equiano’s An Interesting Narrative in the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1794), Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and poetry and prose by anti-slavery and pro-slavery writers.  The writing requirement includes composing and writing three essays of increasing length, including one research paper. 

English R50 is intended for students who are planning to be English majors and who have already taken R1A. It satisfies the College’s R1B requirement.

This course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required for the English major.

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