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ENGL738A Seminar in Nineteenth-Century Literature: Race, Nation, Empire: Reframing Postbellum/Pre-Harlem

This graduate seminar tracks the development and circulation of African American literary and cultural production in the volatile period referred to as the “nadir of race relations,” which spans the halting end of Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow laws, and the simultaneous transformation of the U.S. into a gatekeeping nation and an overseas empire.

Novelist Charles Chesnutt later called this pivotal moment in African American political life and literary practice, “Postbellum/Pre-Harlem.” This seminar explores how different bodies of cultural criticism, from the “transnational turn in American studies” to the “close narration” of Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, have sought to recuperate and reframe this once critically neglected, though vitally important period in U.S. history. In addition to a range of literary and cultural criticism, we will read the works of some of the most iconic writers and activists from this era, such as Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Sutton Griggs, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Angelina Weld Grimké, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar in addition to the recently recovered works of lesser known, amateur, or occasional authors, such as James D. Corrothers and Frank R. Steward who fictionalized his military experiences in the Philippine-American War. Over the course of the semester, we will consider the “Postbellum/Pre-Harlem” in light of evolving discussions over periodization and periodical print culture in nineteenth-century American studies, and explore how it might offer new ways of thinking about early black internationalism, comparative racialization, and the emerging concept of the “Black Pacific.” Assignments may include presentations, an annotated bibliography, a digital archive research project, and a conference-length scholarly paper. This course fulfills the Long Nineteenth Century requirement.

0101 -  Edlie Wong

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