- Course Number: ENGL 236
- Advisory Enrollment Information:
- Quarter: Fall 2023
This course draws on recent reassessments of formalism to excavate the forgotten tradition of Black political formalism in nineteenth-century U.S. law and literature. Focusing on the ancient legal-theatrical form of the person as mask, character, and role, we will explore how activist authors and litigants in the nation’s first civil rights movement revised centuries-old scripts of Blackness by formalizing the performance of legal roles such as slave, wife, free person, and citizen. We will draw on scholarship by Caroline Levine, Phillip Brian Harper, Anna Kornbluh, Daniel Shore, Martha Jones, and Derrick Spires to read literature by Frederick Douglass, William and Ellen Craft, and Charles Chesnutt alongside lawsuits initiated by Black litigants such as Nicholas Darnall, Harriet and Dred Scott, and Sallie J. Robinson.