IAH 221C Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Harriet Beecher Stowe, African-American Art, Slave Narrative
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What is a Novel?
What Genre of the Novel is the Underground Railroad?
-A novel is a literary genre, one of the three other genres.
-It’s different from the genres of poetry, drama, and non-fiction.
-We read Douglass slave narrative, which is an example of nonfiction.
-There are other examples of poetry and nonfiction in the antebellum period
-In this class we will examine three novels: The Underground Railroad, Woman on The Edge of
Time, and There There
African American art and criticism begins with several key works. The earliest known to literary
scholars and historians:
-Lucy Terry’s Poem “Bars fight
-Phyllis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral
-Victor Sejour’s Le mulatre
-David Walkers Appeal in Four Articles with a preamble to the colored citizens of the world
-Mere tradable goods lacking subjectivity (will) the very humanity of slaves and others of
African descents were dismissed.
-Enslaved and free blacks had to write themselves into being.
-Form and function are intimately intertwined.
-Their works enabled scholars of the time
The Novel: A Genre in English from 1719-2019
Nearly always an extended fictional prose narrative, although some novels are very short, some
are non-fictional, some have been written in verse, and some do not even tell a story.
-Novella (brief novel)- gives the novel its name (longer) “new”
-Very long novel that overflows the banks of a single volume (roman-fleuve)
-The novel has become the most important literary genre of the modern age
-There is no established minimum length of a novel
-19th century it secured its dominance
-Greater degree of realism that prose romance
-A novel written in letters
The Sentimental Novel
-Uncle Tom’s cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1852, is an example of a nineteenth
-This novel was published as a part of anti-slavery movement and the abolitionist public sphere.
-It is also an example of a subgenre of the novel, the sentimental novel, because it depicts the
reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive
as enslavement of fellow human beings.
The Abolitionists from the Slave Catcher’s Perspective
-How does the narrator describe the abolitionists from Ridgeway’s perspective? (Whitehead
-New York was a factory of slave antislavery sentiment
-Not seen as a great city
-They were a barricade and something to get around
-Describing arguments to not have meaning (81)
-Rivals and have a different set of ideas/ideologies
-What is the “American Imperative” according to Ridgeway’s thinking? (80)
-If you can keep it, it is yours
-borrowing an idea of a native American
-Reminds us stolen land
-Connects to historical trauma
-Creates an ironic tone
-Associated with an act of theft (land, slaves, idea)
-Comes from Ridgeway’s father
-means something else to him (slave business)
Speculative Fiction: A Subgenre of the novel
1.) Science Fiction-Use of Speculative fiction in this sense may be regarded as pretentious
by some science fiction fans.
-1947 R. A. Heinlein on writing of speculative fiction
There are at least two principal ways to write: about people or gadgets
S. R. Delany About Five Thousand One Hundred and Seventy Five Words Extrapolation
2.) Imaginative fiction
3.) Literature that uses tropes or themes of science fiction, but which is not considered to
be “science fiction” for one reason or another, often to avoid a perceived stigma
associated with the term “science fiction”, or because a work is perceived to lack
(Describing the underground)
M. Cheney in Locus Online uses this term to describe a novel by Ishiguro:
“Though I think Kazuo Never Let me go is not so much a novel about cloning as it is a novel that
utilizes a vague idea of cloning to explore themes of identity. “
Whitehead Creates a Speculative City
Escaping Antebellum Slavery
-After Cora and Caesar escape the slave plantation in Georgia, they are later on the
Underground railroad in the dark. She can’t see anything.
-Darkness is a metaphor
-Also a tool to move onto another city and close everything out
-Closest relations to slave narrative
“Reeling” in the speculative City, Post-escape
-First thing she saw was a skyscraper
-she was in awe (reeling)
-wondering how far she had traveled
-Really should be wondering what time she is in
-Skyscraper is an inaccurism? out of sync with the time it is set in
-Shows that slavery never really ends and freedom is fully never received
A movement in literature, music, art, etc. featuring themes which incorporate elements of black
history and culture: Afrofuturism has drawn adherents from across the whole spectrum of the
20th Century American Literature: After the Civil Rights Movement
-By the mid-1980s, there were many talented poets and fiction writers forming new subgenres,
such as neo-slave narrative, African speculative fiction, and detective fiction.
-The science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany (winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards, and the
father of Afro-futurism)
-Octavia E. Butler, a prolific speculative-fiction novelist and the mother of Afro-futurism,
combined mediations on race, gender, class, and history, for which she won Nebula, Hugo and
MacArthur Genius awards (mother of Afro-futurism)
-Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison is very popular
Re-imagining the past as the future