ENGL 379
Mobility and Confinement in Black Women's Personal Narratives Fall 2017
Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
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Black women have used personal narratives to negotiate mobility and confinement in different ways from Harriet Jacobs’s “escape” into her grandmother’s garret in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to Maya Angelou’s refusal to speak in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This course will introduce students to personal narratives by black women in the form of slave narratives, autobiographies, and prison narratives. Prison narratives are an understudied genre of literature by authors such as the activist and former Black Panther Assata Shakur. Focusing on mobility and confinement, we will discover how black women challenge notions of freedom, power, and empowerment through their interrogations of space, voice, and social position. We will examine not only the similarities among the concerns of these writers as women, activists, and artists, but also the differences that separate them due to time, culture, and geography. To assist us in our inquiry, we will engage key works of the anti-slavery, black feminist, and prison abolition movements. This course contributes to the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative by taking seriously the intellectual merit of the works of women in prison. Furthermore, it also interrogates power from the individual perspectives of black women.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 1937
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussions, weekly journal entries, a midterm exam, a 5-page paper, and an 8- to 10-page paper
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: none
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative

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