This course examines the emergence of black writing and chronicles the major movements of African American print culture from the early American republic to the antebellum era. We will investigate what Joanna Brooks identifies as a distinct tradition of black publication, or a black print “counterpublic” sphere, and determine how this counterpublic emerges around questions of agency, humanity, and the law. We also will consider its role in setting and sustaining communal and intellectual agendas for black people through our engagement with such questions as: how did print culture become central to liberation efforts in early America? And how did black people participate through print in the making of the early republic and the transatlantic exchange of ideas? We will discuss such authors as Briton Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano. Collaborating with Williams College Special Collections, we will analyze a broad range of literary forms and documents (e.g. pamphlets, orations, epistles, and sermons) and study the institutions that made early black print publication possible.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
three critical response papers of two pages each and a culminating research project with Special Collections
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
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
This course centers black writing and print culture during the nascence of the American empire, illuminating the ways in which black people wrote themselves into the public sphere. Through reading and discussion, analytical essays, and archival investigation, students are introduced to discourses that shaped the early American republic and teaches students how to examine and articulate ideas about race, rights, nation, citizenship, self-mastery, agency, authorship, aesthetics, and freedom.
ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories A