Studies: 18th C Literature

The Dark Presence in 18th c Novel.

In her collection of essays, Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison theorizes about the prevalence of the “African Presence” in American Literature. This course will go back a bit further and examine the evolution of the African Presence throughout the early development of the English language novel, from Afra Behn’s Oronooko to Edgar Allan Poe’s Narrative of the Life of Gordon Pym (to which Morrison devotes an essay in her book). The course will not just “note” instances of African presence, but focus on the development of the genre in relation to the changing representations of Africans, as well as the historical and geographical contexts of the narrative.

Key texts
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark
Afra Behn, Oroonoko
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of the Life of Gordon Pym of Nantuckett

Course Requirements
Reading Responses, three “mini” essays, two reports, 6-8 page research paper, take-home final exam