Syllabus--English 635-01 Professor Ferguson
Studies in African American Literature Spring 2003
(The Slave Narrative)
Students will critically read selected slave narratives written by African Americans and give special attention to how these earliest texts help define the African American literary tradition. Other course objectives are:
To evaluate the authority and authenticity of the texts, especially writings from the Black Atlantic;
To examine the historical, social, political, and economic significance of these texts in relation to both slaves and enslavers;
To identify and evaluate the aesthetic qualities of these writings, and
To explore critical and theoretical approaches to African American slave narratives.
Pioneers of the Black Atlantic Five Slave Narratives. William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. Civatas/ Counterpoint, 1998
The Civatas Anthology of African American Slave Narratives. William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. Civatas/Counterpoint, 1999
“Omar Ibn Said: The Life and the Legend” (Handout)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845). Norton Critical ed.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Harriet Jacobs. Jean Fagan Yellin, ed. Harvard UP, 1987
Behind the Scenes . . . Or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868). Elizabeth Keckley. Frances Smith Foster, ed. R. R. Donnelley & Sons, 1998.
Years a Slave (1853). Solomon Northup. Sue Eakin and
Joseph Logsdon, eds.
Women Slave Narratives. William L. Andrews, ed.
Tell a Free Story: The First Century of
Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865. William L.
Andrews. U of
Up from Slavery. Booker T. Washington. Norton Critical ed.
Jan. 14 Introduction: assignment of reports, specific course requirements,
21 “Omar Ibn Said: The Life and the Legend” (Handout); “A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James
Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw,” pp. 30-59
28 “Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant,” pp. 60-80;
Thoughts and Sentiments . . by Ottobah Cugoano, pp. 81-180
Feb. 4 The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. . . ., pp. 182-291
11 The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Lea. . . ., pp. 366-439
18 “The History of Mary Prince,” pp. 22- 81; “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” pp. 82-103
25 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, pp. 104-193
Mar 4 Narrative of William Wells Brown, pp. 194-284
11 SPRING BREAK
18 Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb, pp. 286-401
25 Twelve Years a Slave. Solomon Northup
Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. William and Ellen Craft, pp. 402-461
8 Running a Thousand Miles continued; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs
15 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl continued; “Memoir of Old Elizabeth” and
22 Behind the Scenes. Elizabeth Keckley
29 Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington
May 6 Catch-Up
Students must write a position paper of 1-2 typewritten pages that briefly and concisely argues a specific critical perspective on each of the narratives except Truth Stranger Than Fiction. Try to turn in this position paper either to my office or mailbox by on the day the work will be discussed, or earlier. These short papers count for 25% of the final grade, cannot be made up, but are especially important because they generate ideas for both class discussion and the longer course essay. 20 % of the final grade is determined by an oral report on a slave narrative listed among the required texts. This report should be a critical evaluation of the narrative and its significance to the African American literary tradition(s). This report must also include annotated primary and critical bibliographies as well as other material(s) you deem helpful in understanding and interpreting this specific narrative. A course paper of at least 15 typewritten pages (with publishing potential) counts for 55% of the final grade and should critically examine an original idea generated by course discussion. Arrange a conference with me to discuss this topic, which must be approved. Only make-ups for the course essay will be considered and only for medical emergency, for which the student provides documentation.
Office: 111 McIver
Office Hours: T: and by appointment