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RM360 – Issues in British Romanticism: Slavery and Abolition

During the 1780s, a movement to abolish slavery and the slave trade gained momentum in Great Britain, catalysed by the loss of the North America colonies. This course considers changing representations of slavery in both British and American contexts as a function of both the immediate impact of empire and its legacy in the aftermath of the American Revolution. As the rise of the abolitionist movement coincided with the development of British Romanticism, we will examine the reciprocal relationship between literary production and the economic, social, and political events of the slave trade as it was rendered by those who encountered slavery first hand and through multiple generic modes of writing: memoir, poetry, drama, fiction, and political tracts. The course encourages a comparative approach both in terms of historical period and geographical location, and we will attempt to situate discussion of a wide range of literary texts in conceptual and theoretical frameworks that will facilitate the production of a critically informed response. Works examined will include poetry by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Moore, Wheatley, Opie, Cowper, Day, and Southey, prose tracts by Cugoano, Equiano, and Prince, and plays by Bellamy and Colman. We will also read theory and criticism by Fanon, Gilroy, Lott, Carey, Caretta, Lee, and Baucom. (Not offered 2017-18).

Prerequisite: English 221 or 250 or consent of instructor.

Offerings

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