THE OCEANIC NINETEENTH CENTURY: RACE, THE ENVIRONMENT, & ITS LEGACIES
Professor Martha Elena Rojas, Spring 2017
In this course we will read literature that charts the changing role of the sea in American life, shifting from sail to steam, commerce to recreation, whaling to conservation. Together we will explore how viable it is to speak of a maritime literature, as a body of texts and cultural productions that envision the sea (and what lies beneath, within, and beyond it) as a force to be conquered, confronted, negotiated, explored or simply survived. We will also examine the various ways in which the figure of the sailor or seaman is represented in a maritime canon that includes Olaudah Equiano’s An Interesting Narrative, Richard Henry Dana’s Two Year’s Before the Mast, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Benito Cereno, Mat Johnson’s Pym, the “Amistad” section of Elizabeth Alexander’s American Sublime, and Kevin Young’s Ardency. We will read literary texts that challenge our sense of perspective, that ask us to view maritime literature from the shore, from ships in an indifferent ocean, and from the point of view of sailors, adventurers, pilots, merchants as well as captive and fugitive slaves. This seminar features guest lectures, film screenings, and class trips to New Bedford, Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium.
This course will satisfy the historical period requirement in 1800 to 1900 upon completion and submission of a Curriculum Modification form. Please see Professor Betensky or Professor Nikitas.
See some of our students’ work here.