English 166

Special Topics: Specters of the Atlantic

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2012 Ellis, Nadia
TTh 12:30-2 175 Barrows

Book List

Austen: Mansfield Park; Brodber: Louisiana; Bronte: Jane Eyre; Hartman: Lose Your Mother; James: The Book of Night Women; McCraney: The Brother/Sister Plays; Morrison: Beloved; Philip: Zong; Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea

Other Readings and Media

We will screen films and a Course Reader will offer supplementary texts.


The large scale transportation of Africans to the Americas is a signal fact of modernity in the West. The trouble is that we both do and do not know this. One of the most salient, confounding aspects of life in the Caribbean and the United States, in old imperial centers like London, in Latin America and in Africa itself, is that the history of slavery is all at once everywhere we can see and everywhere hidden. Haunt, then, becomes a mode of reckoning—specters emerge where facts are repressed. In this course we will read texts in which the specter of slavery haunts the narrative, drives the plot, distorts language, or possesses us as readers. Since the fact of the ghost disrupts time we will read purposely ahistorically: works published during the period of slavery (by Austen and Bronte, for example) are juxtaposed with those published in the contemporary era by writers (such as Toni Morrison and Marlon James) who contend with slavery's afterlife. To enhance our understanding of the spectral as it relates to black history we will also read extraordinary theorists and critics including Benjamin, Derrida, Jacqui Alexander, Avery Gordon, and Ian Baucom, to whose ambitious study of the tragedy of the slave ship Zong I owe the title of this course. 

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