English R1A

Reading and Composition: The Fugitive

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2016 Johnson, Sarah Jessica
MWF 10-11 225 Dwinelle

Book List

Condé, Maryse: I, Tituba; Black Witch of Salem; Davis, Angela: An Autobiography; Northup, Solomon: Twelve Years a Slave

Other Readings and Media

A course reader

Films:  Jim Jarmusch: Down By Law; Steve McQueen: 12 Years a Slave; Stuart Baird: U.S. Marshalls 


Run. Now. Don’t look back. (Wait, come back.) This class will consider the American fugitive. What does it mean for someone to escape some form of imprisonment without being able to lawfully reenter society? Does it mean they sneak in? Take on another identity? Or remain “off the grid”—outside society, looking in? We will read depictions of the fugitive through three narrative lenses: recounting, reporting, and recording.

In thinking about your own position as a student and budding writer, we will confront a couple of  pertinent questions: Does the fugitive speak? Can he write? Does she write? Can writing play a role in a fugitive’s reentry into or rejection of society? In addition to these questions concerning the elusiveness of the fugitive and fugitive writing, we will discuss examples of fugitive meaning. 

Over the course of the semester, we will read of the escape of an enslaved house servant in Maryse Condé’s voicing of one of America’s first and most interesting recorded prisoners, Tituba, an early scapegoat in the Salem witch trials; we will investigate the forms of flight taken by African-American slaves escaping bondage after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act; we will examine journalistic prose about modern day fugitives of the law including Angela Davis, “El Chapo,” and prisoners at Alcatraz. Finally, through film we will analyze fictional narratives of fugitives that imagine the everyday emotional and practical concerns of someone fleeing law enforcement. 

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