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Unit information: Literatures of Enslavement in 2020/21

Unit name Literatures of Enslavement
Unit code ENGL30133
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Mr. Steve Bull
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to the rich and complex literature on slavery from 1600 to the present. Students will be encouraged to consider the different political and aesthetic strategies employed by writers at different historical moments to represent slavery and to ask critical questions about the construction of race and identity. Earlier parts of the unit will consider the relationship between slavery and different political ideas of liberty, the intersection of slave narratives with other 18th and 19th century literary forms, and examine paratexts and how different voices are presented and framed. In the latter part of the unit will students will consider the influence of postmodernism and critical theories of trauma, memory and gender in relation to neo-slave narratives, and the relationship of such literature to contemporary ideas about race and racism.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of key literary texts and authors of writing about slavery;
  2. Apply thorough understanding of a range of historical, cultural and intellectual contexts to readings of the literatures of slavery;
  3. Discriminate between and analyse different critical perspectives on literatures of slavery;
  4. Present and critically assess pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument;
  5. Demonstrate skills in oral presentation and working in a group as appropriate to level H.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x group project (formative) [ILOs 1-6]
  • 1 x 2500 word portfolio (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

  • Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral in Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings, ed. by Vincent Carretta (Penguin, 2001)
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
  • Alex Haley, Roots
  • Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979, Headline 2014)