Prof. T. Chakkalakal
Office Hours: Tuesday 10-1, Adams 213 (or by appointment)
Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and its Responses)
While living on Federal Street in Brunswick, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the most famous novel in American history: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). This course explores the production, reception, and influence of Stowe’s novel by engaging with the long history of responses to the novel. The course begins with a close and intensive reading of the novel paired with an overview of the contemporary response it engendered upon its initial serial publication in the National Era. From our reading of the novel we will turn to particular works of African American literature that were influenced or inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin in one form or another. Most of these responses take the form of long fiction, but we will also engage poems, plays, and films.
Students should be prepared to keep up with the somewhat lengthy reading assignments. I have tried to divide the reading assignments as evenly as possible, allowing for longer reading assignments over the weekend and spring break. But given the constraints of the course schedule, this is not always possible. If you have trouble keeping up with the reading, please let me know and we can devise some reading strategies to help you keep up.
Required Texts for purchase in Chegg
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (978-0375756931)
- The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass (030018462X)
- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson (0393972860)
- The Third Generation by Chester Himes (0938410733)
- Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (0061450200)
- Dutchman and the Slave by Amiri Baraka (0688210848)
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty (1250083257)
Attendance is not optional, and neither is the reading. Final course grades will be based upon quality of class participation as well as performance on oral presentation and assigned essays, so it’s in your own interest to show up in both body and mind. (You will be marked down for any more than two absences.) Students will be responsible for several small assignments in conjunction with your participation grade, one oral presentation (20%), two critical essays (40%), and a collaborative response paper (30%), that will be composed in pairs. This course involves a few “field” trips. At least 2 to special collections and 1 to the Stowe House, where the novel was written, on Federal Street.
The reading, oral, and written assignments are designed to enable students to develop their communicative skills, deepen their ability to read complex texts and to develop interpretive methods that are essential to pursuing careers in various fields such as marketing, technology, and print culture.
M Jan 22 Introduction to the course and read Chapter 1, Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin collectively
W Jan 24 Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapters 2-8
M Jan 29 Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapters 9-15 (Visit to Stowe House)?
W Jan 31 Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapters 16-20
M Feb 5 Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapters 21-34 – PRESENTATION: Jared Cole
W Feb 7 Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapters 35-37 – PRESENTATION: Rachel Musante
M Feb 12 – Complete Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Visit to Special Collections) – Critical Response Essay Due in Class
W Feb 14 Douglass, “The Heroic Slave” (pts. 1 & 2) – PRESENTATION: Melissa Cusanello
M Feb 19 Douglass, “The Heroic Slave” (pt. 3) and Douglass “A Black Hero” (p.138): PRESENTATION: Ivy Elganen
W Feb 21 – “Eliza Harris” and “To Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe” by Frances Watkins Harper. “Harriet Beecher Stowe” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. All poems can be found on the Uncle Tom’s Cabin in American Culture website: http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/africam/afpoems.html
PRESENTATION: Sophie Friedman
M Feb 26 – Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (Preface-ch. 9) – PRESENTATION: Devon Campbell
W Feb 28 Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (complete)
PRESENTATION: Caroline Rosen
M Mar 5 Wright, from Uncle Tom’s Children – “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” and “Big Boy Leaves Home.”
PRESENTATION: Natalie Edwards
W Mar 7 Wright “Down by the Riverside” and “Long Black Song” – PRESENTATION: Lucy Ryan
Mar 12-21 SPRING BREAK – Read chapters 1-10 of Himes, The Third Generation
M Mar 26 – We will discuss chapters 1-10 of The Third Generation – PRESENTATION: Aisha Rickford
W Mar 28 Himes, The Third Generation chapters 11-15 – PRESENTATION: Emma Moesswilde
M Apr 2 Himes, The Third Generation – PRESENTATION: Rowan Staley
W Apr 4 Himes, The Third Generation – PRESENTATION: Millie Vergara
M Apr 9 Baldwin, “Everybody’s Protest Novel” Critical Response Essay Due
W Apr 11 Baraka, Dutchman – PRESENTATION:
M Apr 16 Baraka, Dutchman- PRESENTATION:
W Apr 18 Baraka, The Slave – PRESENTATION:
M Apr 23 View Dutchman (film version)
W Apr 25 Tompkins, “Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Politics of Literary History” (handout) – short response on film due
M Apr 30 Beatty, The Sellout (Prologue-ch. 6)- PRESENTATION:
W May 2 Beatty, The Sellout (ch. 7-13) – PRESENTATION:
M May 7 Beatty, The Sellout (ch. 14-end)
W May 9 Discuss Collaborative Projects with class
Final Projects Due on: May 14. Please submit to my office in pairs where I will be waiting to collect them between 9 and noon.