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EN2M6/EN3M6 The Narrative of Slavery


Course Contact:
Dr Alírio Karina

Contact Hours:
weekly 1.5 hour seminar (18 weeks)


Intermediates - 1x 2500 word comparative essay (40%)
and 1x 4000 word essay (60%)

Finalists - 1 x 3500 word comparative essay (40%)

and 1x 4500 word essay (60%)


This module introduces students to the biographical genre of the ‘slave narrative’, its literary afterlives, and its philosophical context. Specifically, it examines together the autobiographies and ammanuensis-written biographies of those liberated from slavery, the so-called ‘neo-slave narrative’ novelistic depictions of slavery, and key philosophical arguments and metanarratives regarding slavery and its role in social and political life.

Readings have been selected for geographic breadth, spanning the earliest known slave narrative to the very recent past. The module is arranged largely chronologically with respect to the time periods under narrative attention, encouraging students to engage how questions of history and memory arise across the readings. This module also provides students with a foundational overview of key referential texts for the field of critical Black Studies as presently constituted, while directing their attention to the long and global arc of the relationship between blackness, unfreedom, and unfreedom’s legacies.

Learning outcomes

 •The module is designed to offer students a foundation to the literary foundations of the field of Black Studies.

•The module introduces students to the biographical genre of the ‘slave narrative’, its literary afterlives, and to the philosophical narratives into which these are contextualized.

•The module will enable students to develop an understanding of how ideas of the meaning of blackness and unfreedom have developed in conversation with these genres.

•It will allow them to track similarities and shifts in the literary use and presentation of history, memory and politics .

•Make appropriate use of scholarly reviews and primary sources, including literary texts from the multiple locations covered on the course.

•Apply their knowledge and understanding in order to initiate and carry out an extended written project.

Sample Syllabus (TBC June)

Term 1

Week 1: Introduction; The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African


Week 2: Leonora Miano, Season of the Shadow (2013)

Week 3: Maryse Condé, I, Tituba (1992)

Week 4: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

Week 5: Fred D’Aguiar, The Longest Memory (1994)

Week 7: The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849)

Week 8: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

Week 9: Biography of Mahommah G. Baquaqua, a Native of Zoogoo, in the Interior of Africa (1854)

Week 10: Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)

Term 2

Week 1: Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

Week 2: Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

Week 3: Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" (2018)

Week 4: Yvette Christiansë, Unconfessed (2006)

Week 5: Esteban Montejo, The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave (1966)

Week 7: Abdulrazak Gurnah, Paradise (1994)

Week 8: Francis Bok & Edward Tivnan, Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America (2003)

Week 9: Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)

Week 10: David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (1975)