Fall 2009

Slavery and the American Imagination


Hilary J. Moss (Section 01)


This interdisciplinary seminar explores how Americans have imagined slavery over time. Drawing from works of history, fiction, and film, this course examines depictions of the “peculiar institution” to uncover connections between America’s racial past and its racial present. Specific discussion topics include the origins of American slavery; the slave narrative; the emergence of radical abolitionism and pro-slavery ideology; the invention of the South; the politics of slavery in the Civil Rights era; the “discovery” of slave society; the “Roots” of black power; agency and resistance; slavery in contemporary fiction; and slavery and autobiography. Weekly readings will span a wide array of primary sources including poetry, short essays, novels,and slave narratives. There will also be occasional film screenings. Two class meetings per week.

This course seeks to give students the tools to read, write, and express themselves effectively.  Course assessment will consist of three components:  weekly response writings; three essays ranging in length from five to seven pages; and rigorous class participation. To facilitate engaging exchanges, students will post one-page response papers on Blackboard the evening before class.  During the course of the semester, students will also submit three analytical essays designed to stress efficient writing and argumentation.  To master the art of revision, students will submit multiple drafts of these assignments.  Finally, to strengthen students’ independent research skills, we will also spend some time in the college archives.

Fall semester.  Professor Moss.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010