Atlantic slavery and transatlantic romanticisms

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ENGL 673 – Fall 2013


Dr. Lucia Hodgson
The Romantic period in English and American literature roughly coincided with the expansion and demise of slavery in the British West Indies and the United States. Literary traffic criss-crossed the Atlantic alongside and through pro-slavery and abolitionist discourses. This course will read Romantic poetry, prose and fiction in the context of cultural discourses concerning abolition, emancipation, colonization, national belonging, racial difference, and cultural practices. We will survey the recent surge in scholarship on the intimate and vexed relationship between the practices of Atlantic slavery and Romantic literature in English, including criticism by Toni Morrison, Anne Mellor, Alan Richardson, Paul Gilroy, Moira Ferguson, Peter Kitson, Debbie Lee, Helen Thomas, Saree Makdisi, Tim Fulford, Deirdre Coleman, John Carlos Rowe, Marcus Wood, Brycchan Carey and George Boulukos. We will also read many of the primary texts that have been the focus of this scholarship which include poetry by Phillis Wheatley, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hannah More, William Cowper, and Maria Edgeworth; novels by William Godwin, Charlotte Brontë, Mary Shelley, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Edgar Allan Poe; and prose by Anthony Benezet, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Martineau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Maria Child, and Frederick Douglass. We will pay attention to the ways that Romantic literature, broadly conceived, was influenced by the literature and practices of slavery and itself engaged the issue of slavery to influence cultural discourse, political rhetoric, and public policy. We will survey a range of literary genres and movements associated with Atlantic Romanticism, including the Gothic, the travel narrative, the slave narrative, lyric poetry, autobiography, primitivism, sentiment, and the American novel.
Students will be encouraged to write a final research project that links the texts and themes of the course with their own particular research areas and interests.

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