The woods are the book we read over and over as children. Wyatt Townley

Fall 2017

ENG 614: Neo-Slave Narratives

T 6-9 pm Devos

Dr. Regis Fox

The aim of this seminar is to analyze late twentieth- and early twenty-first century African American cultural production under the rubric of “neo-slave narrative.”  Participants will collectively interrogate the contours of a field of both literary and visual texts which actively contest dominant discourses around the history of U.S. enslavement.  That is, the course intends to call into question the ways in which U.S. slavery, as well as the consciousness, humanity, and flesh of the enslaved, have been thought and narrativized. 

Moreover, intersections and divergences within this archive will be addressed in relationship to the genres/disciplines of satire, postmodernism, science fiction, history, and art; the meanings of blackness and the Middle Passage; and the politics of self-reclamation and resistance. 

Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

Primary questions orienting the seminar may include, but are not limited to:  

  • How do the works under examination enable processes of witnessing, the transmission of cultural memory, and “coming to voice”?  
  • How do they enact modes of healing and/or redress?  How do these novels and visual works complicate the legacies of Enlightenment and modernity?  
  • What similarities and differences exist between the texts’ engagements with temporality?  What sorts of ruptures occur in relationship to conventional notions of time?
  • In what ways does this archive make visible themes of sexuality, intimacy, and desire?  How do these cultural productions illuminate contemporary complicity? 
  • And how do they influence the way we understand the present?


Primary texts of importance may include:


Harriet Jacobs/Linda Brent, Incidents in the Life...

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of...

Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada

Octavia Butler, Kindred

Sherley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Edward Jones, The Known World

Colton Whitehead, Underground Railroad

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Octavia Butler's Kindred

And secondary texts by:


Ashraf Rushdy

Hortense Spillers

Angela Davis

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw

Elizabeth Alexander

Barbara Christian

Page last modified February 9, 2017