ENGLISH 397 - Honors Junior Seminar
Section: 001 The African Americanization of Victorian Literature
Term: FA 2019
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior or senior standing, and permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

Nineteenth-century African American literature and Victorian (nineteenth-century British) literature are almost always studied separately. As we will see in this course, however, African American writers and editors responded to Victorian literature in sustained and surprising ways: they reprinted and discussed it in antislavery newspapers, quoted it in their own writings, and, most strikingly, transformed Victorian texts into poems, stories, and novels about African Americans. These acts of appropriation, recontextualization, and reimagining illuminate both traditions. They also raise fraught questions about originality, influence, and the politics of intertextuality.

Central concerns of the works we will read include racial identity, social protest and reform, the overcoming of stigma, and tensions between individual fulfillment and group loyalty. The course will have two main units: the first will center on Charles Dickens’s novel Bleak House, which was reprinted by Frederick Douglass in his antislavery newspaper and rewritten by Hannah Crafts as a fictional slave narrative (The Bondwoman’s Narrative); the second will track African American reworkings of George Eliot’s epic poem The Spanish Gypsy in several novels and stories about racial passing and racial uplift, including Frances Harper’s novel Iola Leroy. Besides reading these works closely and in relation to one another, we will also look at how they appeared and circulated in the transatlantic print culture of the day—asking, for example, how the illustrations and advertisements that accompanied them might have shaped readers’ expectations and understanding.

ENGLISH 397 - Honors Junior Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
Th 4:00PM - 7:00PM
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