Fall 2018 Courses – English 4113, Introduction to History and Literature

English 4113: Introduction to History and Literature
Fall 2018, MW 3:40-4:55, Boylan 4315
Professor Karl Steel
Contact Information: ksteel AT brooklyn.cuny.edu | twitter @karlsteel
Office: Boylan 2157      Office Hours: MW 11:30-12:30, 2:15-3:15 MW, 5:15-6:15 Tues

Introduction to History and Literature will study questions of “national belonging,” the uses of history, and, in particular, racialization from the Middle Ages to the present, using literary examples in conjunction with nonliterary archives to introduce students to “the concept of interdisciplinarity and to fundamental methods of analyzing history and literature.” We will begin with the Middle Ages, studying first an early instance of colonialism, and then the origin of an antisemitic legend; then we will examine the law and protest literature surrounding the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, before concluding with Toni Morrison’s masterpiece, Beloved, and a late nineteenth-century memoir on legal remedies for oppression, Lucy Delaney’s Out of the Darkness Cometh the Light.

Objectives: Students will develop skills in

  • Expressing ideas clearly in writing, including skills in grammar, organization, and revision
  • Understanding and analyzing literary writing, including the understanding of literature in its interdisciplinary contexts and the conventions of literary argumentation
  • Using theory and criticism to complicate and enrich their understanding of cultural materials
  • Using an academic library to find scholarly sources
  • Speaking effectively about cultural objects, including literature

Required Texts
[link to buy books]
Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland, trans. John O’Meara (New York: Penguin, 1983), ISBN 0140444238
Thomas of Monmouth, Life and Passion of William of Norwich, trans. Miri Rubin (New York: Penguin, 2015), ISBN
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (New York: Penguin, 2003), ISBN 0142437166
Toni Morrison, Beloved (New York: Knopf, 1987 [Vintage Reprint 2004) ISBN 1400033411

Course Pack

Date Reading/Assignments
M 8/27 Introduction – the Myth of Europe and the problem of National Belonging
W 8/29 Online : William Harrison, “Of the general constitution of the bodies of the Britons” [Volume 1, Chapter 20, 1587 version, online at The Holinshed Project]; Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Race,” in English Traits, 349-65
W 9/5 Coursepack – Joseph Rouse, “Power/Knowledge,” from the Cambridge Companion to Foucault (read this first to help you understand)
Paper 1 Due
W 9/12 Gerald of Wales, Part 1
Presentations Begin
M 9/17 Gerald of Wales, Part 2
M 9/24 Gerald of Wales, Part 3
W 9/26 Coursepack: Linda E Mitchell “Gender(ed) Identities? Anglo-Norman Settlement, Irish-ness, and the Statutes of Kilkenny of 1367”
M 10/1 Thomas of Monmouth 1 + Chaucer, The Prioress’s Tale [find online]
W 10/3 Thomas of Monmouth 2 + Richard of Devizes, Chronicle, pages 59-64
W 10/10 Thomas of Monmouth 3
M 10/15 Thomas of Monmouth 4 + Coursepack: Meir of Norwich
W 10/17 Course Review – Coursepack: Walter Johnson, “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice”
M 10/22 Coursepack – William Dunbar poem; historical materials; Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, VI.x-xi – DISCUSSION: Misogynoir + Colorism
W 10/24 Coursepack – Barbados Laws 1654, and Mark A. Peterson ‘The Selling of Joseph: Bostonians, Antislavery, and the Protestant International, 1689-1733’
M 10/29 Online reading: Declaration of the Rights of Man; Edward Rushton letter to George Washington; Dessalines letter to Jefferson; 1805 Haitian Constitution; “Race and the Haitian Constitution
W 10/31 Coursepack: Two Essays from European Romantic Review: Manu Samiriti Chander and Patricia A. Matthew, “Abolitionist Interruptions: Romanticism, Slavery, and Genre,” and Rebecca Schneider, ““He says he is free”: Narrative Fragments and Self-Emancipation in West Indian Runaway Advertisements”
M 11/5 Equiano, Interesting Narrative – Coursepack: excerpts from Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon
W 11/7 Equiano, Interesting Narrative
M 11/12 Equiano, Interesting Narrative
W 11/14 Coursepack: Margaret Garner Readings
M 11/19 Beloved
W 11/21 Beloved
M 11/26 Beloved – Coursepack, Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts”
W 11/28 Beloved
Paper 2 Due by Now
M 12/3 Coursepack: Lucy Delaney, Out of the Darkness, and Eric Gardner “‘You Have No Business to Whip Me’: The Freedom Suits of Polly Walsh and Lucy Ann Delaney”
Last Day of Presentations
W 12/5 Questionnaire Due
M 12/10 Final Paper Writing Workshop
Sample Paragraph / Annotated Bibliography Due
W 12/12 Course Review / Final Paper Writing Workshop 2
W 12/19 Final Paper Due – Expanded and thorough revision of one of earlier papers

Attendance is required. You are allowed 3 absences for whatever reason without penalty. Your grade will be penalized one grade step (eg, from a B+ to a B) for every absence after the third. Be on time!

You are expected to have done all the Reading and to be prepared to talk about it. Bring the day’s reading to class.

For a good Participation grade, be respectful of and – especially! – be engaged in the class discussion. Phones and computers can be used only to take notes or to look something up for class.

Note regarding Student Disability Services:

I am committed to providing accommodations for students with disabilities. If you are disabled or suspect you may have a disability, the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, contact Valerie Stewart-Lovell (718-951-5538, vstewart@brooklyn.cuny.edu, 138 Roosevelt Hall Building) to have your disability documented, as this will ensure you receive the accommodation that it is your right to receive. Do not hesitate to appeal to Stewart-Lovell’s office if you are not receiving accommodations for a documented disability.


Participation: 5%
Weekly Blackboard writing: 15%
Presentation+ Presentation Paper: 15%
Short Writing Assignments: 20%
Questionnaire: 5%
Sample Paragraph/Annotated Bibliography: 5%
Final Paper: 25%
Final Exam: 10%