AMST 218
Gender and Sexuality in the Neo-slave Narrative Spring 2020
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed WGSS 218 / AMST 218 / ENGL 218 / AFR 218

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Hortense Spillers has noted that ex-slave Harriet Jacobs, “between the lines of her narrative, demarcates a sexuality that is neuterbound” and we live with the aftermath of her observation. “Ungendering,” one of the transformations undergone by bodies subjected to the Middle Passage, is one of the keywords that forms the foundation for a conversation about slavery, blackness, gender, sexuality, and archive. Throughout this course we will wrestle with the questions: How does the designation “slave” rupture, reify, or expand our understandings of sexuality and gender? What conditions have necessitated the neo-slave narrative form? Texts include: slave narratives and neo-slave narratives in the forms of novels, visual art, and film. Course texts include: Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, Jewelle Gomez’s Gilda Stories, Glenn Ligon’s “Runaways”, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Critical theories of blackness, gender, and sexuality are also central texts in this course including that by Darieck Scott, Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, Matt Richardson, and others. Given that neo-slave narratives intervene in the sexual and gendered silences of slave narratives and the power relations that produced them, students who are hesitant to study sexual violence might consider taking another course.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3729
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: mandatory participation in discussion, four papers including one critical revision (total 20 pages), keyword glossary
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: sophomores
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
WGSS 218 Division II AMST 218 Division II ENGL 218 Division I AFR 218 Division II
WS Notes: Three thesis papers at 5 pages each (each receiving critical feedback from professor); one thesis paper revision with critical feedback from professor and peers including one letter of revision explaining the student's revision process; one keyword glossary where students develop rigorous definitions of course key terms; one roundtable discussion based on the final paper. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
DPE Notes: This course examines the work of black writers and artists engaged with the archival silences imposed by the power dynamics of racial hierarchy which constrained the birth of African American literature (the slave narrative). In particular, we examine the meaningful/willful/and censorial omissions that shape the treatment of gender and sexuality in these texts including and especially the silences around sexual abuse and sexual assault practiced by beneficiaries of white supremacy.
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses
ENGL Literary Histories C

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