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PS Slavery + Abolition : Course Description

Course Description ^top


subject area: English literature + cultural studies
language: English
reading: Aphra Behn, Oroonoko or, The Royal Slave (Norton Critical Edition – no other edition will do!); David Dabydeen, A Harlot's Progress; Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (Norton Critical Edition – no other edition will do!); Caryl Phillips, Cambridge
additional reading:
Other source material (Mary Prince’s The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, poetry) and background reading will be made available on studOn by the beginning of the term.

Slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire are linked closely to the English settlement of colonies in the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries. In this course, we will have a closer look at slavery in Great Britain and the abolition movement as one of the first and most successful public campaigns in British history (the Act of Parliament to abolish the British Slave Trade was passed on 25 March 1807). We will study both non-fictional abolition texts and literary texts that became part of the cause of abolition (Aphra Behn’s fictitious Oroonoko, Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, as well as Mary Prince’s autobiographical History of Mary Prince and poetry). In a second step, we will read and discuss two novels that shed light on slavery and its abolition from a contemporary point of view (David Dabydeen’s A Harlot’s Progress and Caryl Phillips’ Cambridge).
Students attending this course are expected to submit short reading responses on a regular basis and to give a short oral presentation.

Reading List ^top


Please note that the reading load for this course is relatively demanding as we are going to read a substantial amount of 17th- and 18th-century texts. You should have finished reading at least Oroonoko by the beginning of the winter term.
We will cover the primary texts in the following order:
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave (1688)
    Norton Critical Edition: ISBN 0393970140
  • David Dabydeen, A Harlot's Progress (1999)
  • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831)
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)
    Norton Critical Edition: ISBN 0393974944
  • Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (1991)