This 200-level genre course, taken primarily by English majors in fulfillment of their genre requirement, is a study of the slave/freedom narrative genre from the late 18th-century to the present.
I teach courses in African American, Afro-Caribbean, and U.S. American literature, legal studies, and cultural studies at all levels of undergraduate and graduate instruction. Below are sample syllabi for recent courses taught. Students seeking current syllabus information should consult the relevant Canvas course sites.
English 241: Introduction to African American Literature
This 200-level general education course introduces students from across the curriculum to African American literature. While I have taught this course several different ways, including a survey from Phillis Wheatley to the present, I currently teach the course on the period from the late 18th-century through the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to allowing me to focus on the long 19th century, this structure also permits me to keep the textbook cost to students below $25, as most of the materials are out of copyright protection. I use Hypothes.is extensively in this course to create collaborative annotations of primary texts from the long 19th century.
Black Feminist Jurisprudence
This 300-level course combines literary and legal study via Black feminist theory. Students explore the role of law in maintaining and perpetuating oppressive systems and structures; they also examine Black women-created literary works that register and/or resist white supremacist patriarchy. Students study works of theory, literature, history, and law, learning legal writing skills such as case briefs while attending deeply to works of Black literature and theory.
The 19th-Century American Novel
In this 300-level course, students undertake a deep study of the 19th-century American novel. In my version of this course, students read two epic, mysterious, genre-bending novels from the 19th century: Martin Delany's Blake, or the Huts of America and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. By focusing on these two novels, we pay particular attention to how 19th-century novelists grappled with slavery, ways of life that felt increasingly “global,” and what it meant to “belong” – to a community, to a crew, to a racial identity, to a nation. Literary readings are punctuated with theoretical readings from Black Studies, posthumanism, Animal Studies, abolition geography, and legal history. Students also practice collaborative and archival work around key terms like globalism/diaspora, gender/sex/sexuality, race and slavery, rebellion/marronage, and environment/the oceanic.
In this hybrid undergraduate/graduate seminar, students both study historical examples of Black rebellion and interrogate the theoretical stakes of "rebellion" in the first place. Students study fiction, autobiography, graphic novels, film, historiography, and theory, as well as practice archival research skills. I teach this course in several modalities/contexts, including a version at the Clark Honors College and another version where students practice digital humanities skills.
Clark Honors College 221h:
19th-Century Black Women Writers
In this course, we will trace the beginnings of the Black feminist literary tradition by studying Black women’s writing from the long 19th century. This century saw, among other things, the building of the early U.S. republic, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Haitian Revolution, the Civil War, legal emancipation, Reconstruction, and the beginnings of the Jim Crow era – as such, the literature from this century is exceptionally diverse. We will read expansively from among enslaved and free(d) women writers, studying their poetry, autobiography, speeches, journalism, and fiction, and noting the ways that Black women writers imagined and embodied liberation in their art and activism. As such, one of the questions we will return to frequently throughout the term is: what is liberation? In order to understand how this 19th-century writing influenced later formulations of Black feminist theory, we will also practice principles of Black feminist ethics in our engagement with the materials, and we will frequently discuss how these 19th-century texts reverberate in our 21st-century reading context.
Theories of Black Personhood
What is a person? Are “body,” “person,” and “human” synonymous terms? Is “citizen” a subset of one or more of these categories? Why do we reach for some of these terms in specific contexts, and what assumptions or investments do we reveal when we do? How do these terms variously narrate other categories of identity such as race, nationality, gender, and sexuality? Does the very title of this course suggest a hierarchy that we might want to disrupt?
In this seminar, we examine these questions of Black personhood mainly through the lens of the 19th century U.S. and broader Atlantic world, where legalized slavery, colonialism, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow put particular pressure on these categories. We read a combination of primary and secondary sources to study competing versions of Black personhood in C19. Students working on personhood in other periods and regions, however, are encouraged to use our theoretical work to develop projects related to their broader research agendas. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries about course texts and syllabi.
This course considers African American and Caribbean literature that troubles our notions of the “natural” and the “real.” Exploring narratives of hallucination, prophecy, psychic knowledge, and supernatural phenomena, we study the ways that Black writers have documented political resistance and claimed Black identity through the language of what we will provisionally call “the supernatural.” Rather than reading the supernatural solely as forms of ghost stories, psychosis, and horror, we take seriously narratives of hallucination and prophecy in order to unsettle dominant colonial norms of knowledge, literature, consciousness, and sanity. The course is transhistorical, but we spend significant time in the 19th century before turning to more contemporary fiction and film. Please contact me at email@example.com with inquiries about course texts and syllabi.