Accueil > The return of American slavery


Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Recently, the memory of American slavery has returned to haunt US society, politics and culture (e.g. police killings, controversies over the Confederate flag and Yale University's ties to slavery, the opening of museums of African American slavery and resistance, a spate of Hollywood movies on slavery and race). The course will focus on this return by examining the body of slavery (the corpus delicti, as it were) and some of its ghosts in US public space today. Our touchstones will be two landmark texts: Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave : Written By Himself (1845 edition), whose author President Trump seems to think is still alive—and he is; and The Fire Next Time (1963) by James Baldwin, another major figure of African American letters whose voice has also returned with a bang in Raoul Peck's documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” (2016). Additionally, we shall ponder other manifestations of slavery's return in society, politics and culture, with a special emphasis on film. More broadly, we shall place slavery's contemporary resurgence in the broad context of representations of African Americans since the 19th century.


KAENEL, André (Full professor)

Required reading

  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave : Written By Himself (Penguin Classics, with an introduction by Houston Baker). NB: only the 1845 edition will do
  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (Vintage ed.)