English 133A

African American Literature and Culture Before 1917

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2020 Wagner, Bryan
MW 5-6:30 PM 179 Dwinelle

Book List

Brown, William Wells: Clotel; Chesnutt, Charles: The Marrow of Tradition; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life; Du Bois, W. E. B.: The Souls of Black Folk; Equiano, Olaudah: Interesting Narrative; Harper, Frances: Iola Leroy; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Wells-Barnett, Ida B.: Lynch Law in Georgia; Wheatley, Phillis: Complete Writings

Other Readings and Media

Other materials will be available in PDF format on the course website.


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 complex 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. Course themes include authorship and authenticity, captivity and deliverance, law and violence, memory and imagination, kinship and miscegenation, passing and racial impersonation, dialect and double consciousness. Works by authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. Du Bois are supplemented by readings in history, theory, and criticism. Two essays, two exams, and weekly writing.

This course satisfies the university's Historical Studies breadth requirement.

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