2023-2024 Catalog

BLST 346 Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century African American Literature

This course thinks through current debates over the relationship between literary aesthetics and harmony in American democracy. Do aesthetics foster a more harmonious or disharmonious national culture? Is disharmony ever important to progress? How does literature represent protests for social change that are often only possible outside the law, like the many freedmen and freedwomen escaping slavery and demanding the destruction of that system? How does this alter our understandings of what it means to be a fugitive? How can the fugitive fighting for freedom be distinguished from the unprincipled outlaw? From another perspective, we will consider how the complications of American society have altered certain traditional literary forms. While recent scholarship has addressed these questions in regards to early- to mid-20th century literature, this course will look back further, starting from the early 19th century to the very beginning of the 20th. We will complement the literature by reading relevant historical materials from the abolitionist movement, labor movements, government debates over Emancipation and Reconstruction, etc. The course will include literature from Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Walt Whitman, Ida B Wells, and Charles Chesnutt, amongst others, and will cover several genres, including: oratory, autobiography, political pamphlets, and short fiction. 


4 units

Cross Listed Courses

ENGL 346

Core Requirements Met

  • United States Diversity