English 133A

African American Literature and Culture Before 1917

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2018 Wagner, Bryan
TTh 2-3:30 106 Wheeler

Book List

Brown, William Wells: Clotel; Chesnutt, Charles: The Marrow of Tradition; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life; DuBois, W. E. B.: The Souls of Black Folk; Dunbar, Paul Laurence: Lyrics of Lowly Life; Equiano, Olaudah: Interesting Narrative of the Life; Harper, Frances E. W.: Iola Leroy; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Walker, David: Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World; Wells-Barnett, Ida B.: Mob Rule in New Orleans; Wheatley, Phillis: Poems on Various Subjects

Other Readings and Media

We will also be reading shorter works by Anna Julia Cooper, Alexander Crummell, Ottobah Cuguano, Martin Delany, Sutton Griggs, Jupiter Hammon, Edmonia Highgate, Victor Séjour, Maria Stewart, Lucy Terry, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, Booker T. Washington, and Robert Alexander Young.

All texts are available on the course website and on reserve in the library. There are no books to purchase.


This course explores African American literary history from its beginning in the eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century, interpreting major works in the context of slavery and its aftermath. We will reflect on the complicated relationship between literature and political activism by examining the genres and formal devices through which African Americans responded to the demand for individual and collective self-representation. Themes include authorship and authenticity, captivity and deliverance, law and violence, memory and imagination, kinship and miscegenation, passing and racial impersonation. Required works by authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and W. E. B. Du Bois will be supplemented by reading in history, theory, and criticism. Syllabus here.

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