Studies: 19th C Literature (Race, Slavery, and Empire)

ENG 433: Race, Slavery, and the British Empire

This course examines the connections between slavery and empire in 18th and 19th century British literature and history. From the novel and memoir, to poetry, pamphlets and slave narratives, slavery and empire consistently appeared throughout a wide range of texts. The project of this course will be to explore this body of literature, with a special interest in the rise of the novel. Beginning with two foundational British novels, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688) and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), we’ll examine how the novel was complicit with the projects of slavery and empire, and how it helped construct racial categories. We will then read a variety of other primary texts from the 18th and 19th centuries, from slave narratives and memoirs, to poetry and travel narratives, to analyze how slavery and empire gave rise to racial constructions, and how certain writers – most especially women of color – pushed back against anti-blackness and white supremacy. Alongside our primary texts, we’ll read a handful of theoretical materials on race and racism. Assignments will include several short writings and a longer research project (with a creative option). Throughout the course we will examine how this legacy of slavery and empire still exists today (such as the BLM movement).

This class will be conducted synchronously over Zoom.

This class also fulfills the 1700-1898 historical breadth requirement.

Required Texts:

Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (Penguin edition)

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Penguin edition)

Anonymous, The Woman of Color (Broadview Press)

Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (Penguin edition)

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (Penguin edition)

Mary Seacole, The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands (Penguin edition)