Heather Hathaway

Marquette University

(taught at Harvard University, History and Literature Tutorial, 1989)

This course, heavily dependent upon Hazel Carby's Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (Oxford, 1987), is intended to explore the parameters of the literature produced by Black women in the Americas between slavery and the Harlem Renaissance. The goal is to provide students with knowledge of the historical and social roots of Black womens writing during the 19th and early 20th century in order that they may better contextualize more recent and popular works. Throughout the class, the uses of fiction to borrow Pauline Hokpins phrase, frames our discussion of the literature.

Feb. 1: Female Slave Narratives

  • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (1831)

    Feb. 8

  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl (1861) [Yellin edition]
  • Hazel Carby, chps. 1 and 2 from Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist ("Woman's Era: Rethinking Black Feminist Theory" and "Slave and Mistress: Ideologies of Womanhood Under Slavery")

    Feb.15: Narratives of Free Black Women

  • Nancy Prince, A Black Woman's Odyssey Through Russia and Jamaica: The Narrative of Nancy Prince (1850)


  • Harriet Wilson, Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859)
  • Carby, ch. 3 ("'Hear My Voice, Ye Careless Daughters': Narratives of Slave and Free Women Before Emancipation")

    Feb. 29: Politics and Power

  • Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South
  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "Woman's Political Future"
  • Carby, ch. 4 ("Of Lasting Service for the Race")

    March 1: Lynching and Sexuality: The Colonization of the Body

  • Ida B. Wells, selected readings.

    March 8: Fiction as a Tool of Social Protest

  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Iola LeRoy
  • Carby, ch. 4 and 5 ("Of Lasting Service for the Race: The Work of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper" and "'In the Quiet, Undisputed Dignity of My Womanhood': Black Feminist Thought After Emancipation")

    March 15

  • Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces
  • Carby, chps. 6 and 7 ("'Of What Use is Fiction?': Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins" and "'All the Fire and Romance': The Magazine Fiction of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins"

    March 22: Into the Twentieth Century: Sexual and Racial "Others"

  • Nella Larsen, Quicksand

    Apr. 5

  • Larsen, Passing

    Apr. 12: The Harlem Renaissance: Conservative Views of Race and Gender--The Elite

  • Jessie Fauset, Chinaberry Tree

    Apr. 19: The Harlem Renaissance: Alternative Views of Race and Gender--The Folk

  • Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God Apr. 26: Conclusion
  • Carby, ch. 8 ("The Quicksands of Representation: Rethinking Black Cultural Politics")

    Supplemental Texts to read throughout the course:

  • Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (1981);
  • Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women On Race and Sex in America (1984)

    This page was prepared by Audrey Mickahail at the Center for Electronic Projects in American Culture Studies (CEPACS), housed at Georgetown University, under the direction of Randy Bass, Department of English.