The History of Slavery through Literature and Film

The History of Slavery through Literature and Film

This upper-level undergraduate seminar explores the history of race and slavery in America through autobiography, literature, and film. We pair first-person accounts of slavery with modern fictional narratives in order to examine the meaning and memory of slavery throughout American history. Central themes and topics include the emergence of race as a justification for slavery; the construction of slave narratives and the developing genre of autobiography; the politics of abolition; and the changing depictions of slavery in modern America.

Readings include autobiographies by Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs alongside modern novels and films such as Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years A Slave.”

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to see the full syllabus.

Selected readings & resources:

Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead Books, 2010)
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past (1997)
Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother (2007)



Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008)
Thomas Gray, The Confessions of Nat Turner
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)