GW Students! We’ll be featuring a few of our Spring 2015 courses here over the next week. Consider signing up for English 3570: The Cultural Memory of Slavery in Literature and Film, taught by Professor Jennifer James. The CRN is 48139, TR 2:20-3:35.
The upcoming two hundred-year anniversary of the end of the Civil War has renewed debates about our nation’s complex relationship to the history of slavery. The recent success of major theatrical films about enslavement has given new urgency to enduring questions about the relationship of art to cultural memory. Can a traumatic event like slavery ever be captured in literature, film or other art forms? What can art accomplish that history “proper” can not? Who has the “right” to depict that history? How do artists explain their need to take on this difficult subject? To think through these and other questions, we will read a variety of literature beginning with 19th century slave narratives and ending with examples of 20th century neo-slave novels, such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Octavia Butler’s Afrofuturist novel, Kindred and Edward P. Jones’ The Known World. Selected films will include Django Unchained, Lincoln, Twelve Years a Slave, Jefferson in Paris and Sankofa.