English 9214

Black Lives in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century

Instructor: Professor Mary Helen McMurran.
Summer 2023, Full Course equivalent.

This course focuses on male and female Black writers’ narratives and imaginative writing about the Black experience. Focusing on ideas of agency and personhood, we will investigate the mechanisms of oppression and expressions of enslaved Africans’ resistance to white power before and during the period of Abolition. Texts will include personal narratives such as that of Olaudah Equiano, John Marrant, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Prince as well as poetry by Phillis Wheatley and others. Students will gain familiarity with historical and literary context of Black writing, with the aim of becoming sensitive to racism, race, and racialization from a historical perspective and its connection to the present. The course merits a full year because in addition to studying primary texts in modern editions and secondary critical sources, it will be an introduction to searching and using relevant rare books and archives at Weldon. In addition to building skills in descriptive bibliography and understanding aspects of print culture of the transatlantic eighteenth century, we will attend to the erasures and difficulties of retracing Black voices.