ENGL 314 A: Transatlantic Literature and Culture

Meeting Time: 
WF 11:30am - 1:20pm
* *
Catherine Cole
Catherine Cole

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 314A Transatlantic Literature and Culture

Atlantic Bonds, Legacies of Slavery, and the African Imaginary

29-1962-Nigeria-1024x738.jpgJacob Lawrence. Street to Mbari. 1964. Tempera over graphite on paper, 22 1/4 × 30 7/8” (56.5 × 78.4 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James T. Dyke. © 2015 Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Art Resource, N.Y.

Prof. Catherine M. Cole

* Spring 2021 / WF 11:30am - 1:20pm

Taking as a starting point Ghana’s and West Africa's historic significance as a key node in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this course examines the literature and arts of diasporic memory, displacement, migration, return, and encounter. We will consider prescient texts from the early African independence era by writers such as Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana) and Maya Angelou (African American) as well as more recent memoirs, novels, dramas, and poetry by Black authors from Africa and the diaspora such as Saidiya Hartman, Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, and Yaa Gyasi. Leveraging the extraordinary opportunity presented by the Seattle Art Museum’s Spring 2021 exhibit of the artist Jacob Lawrence, we will contrast the epic sweep Lawrence’s visual depiction of the mass exodus and struggles of enslaved peoples in America with Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, a novel that spans two continents and multiple centuries in Ghana and the larger diasporic world. An overarching objective of this course is to cultivate what theorist VèVè Clark has called “diaspora literacy”--that is, the “reader’s ability to comprehend the literatures of Africa, Afro-America, and the Caribbean from an informed indigenous perspective.”

Format: The course will meet synchronously via Zoom, and course sessions will include a combination of lectures and small group discussion. 

Required texts include:

  • Ama Ata Aidoo, The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa (plays); ISBN: 9780582276024
  • Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (novel); ISBN: 1101971061
  • Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (memoir); ISBN: 067973404X
  • Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (memoir); ISBN: 0374531153
  • The Migration Series Poetry Suite, in honor of painter Jacob Lawrence: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2015/onewayticket/perspectives/poetry/; with poems by Rita Dove, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natasha Trethewey, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Crystal Williams, and Kevin Young.

Other texts will be provided electronically via Canvas.

Instructor: Catherine M. Cole is Divisional Dean of the Arts and Professor of Dance and English at the University of Washington. Her most recent book, Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice (2020), is about dance and live art in contemporary South Africa and beyond. Previous books include Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition (2010) and Ghana's Concert Party Theatre (2001). Cole has co-edited the book Africa After Gender?, as well as special issues of Theatre Survey on “African and Afro-Caribbean Performance” and TDR: The Drama Review on "Routes of Blackface.” Cole’s disability dance theater piece Five Foot Feat, created in collaboration with Christopher Pilafian, toured North America in 2002-2005. 

Catalog Description: 
Explores literatures and cultures produced in the Atlantic world. Emphasizes historical lines of communication and exchange among Atlantic cultures and their literature.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 14, 2021 - 5:40am