“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -William Faulkner
As the summer of 2020 made abundantly clear, even 159 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slavery and its effects continue to haunt this country like uneasy ghosts that still cannot find rest. The American South remains particularly impacted by the institution of chattel slavery; thus, its literary canon, in particular, is haunted by ghosts (literal and metaphorical) and marked by a compulsive need to look backward to somehow make sense of this monstrous sin that we (Americans)–Or is it they (Southerners)?–committed. This course will explore the region itself and our national relationship to it through the extraordinary fiction that continues to emerge from the former plantations, cotton fields, swamps, towns, and cities of the American South. Novels and short stories will comprise the bulk of our reading, accompanied by some theory and even some country music lyrics. Note that this course is not for the faint of heart. Authors may include Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Jesmyn Ward, and Suzan-Lori Parks, among others. The course aims to expand your imaginative schema of the region, to challenge your assumptions about it, and to help you cultivate a relationship with a part of the United States whose fate remains integrally entangled with ours.
Instructor: Ms. Newton