Caribbean Inflections

Karen Salt

History, University of Aberdeen

This fall, I offered two new courses for 3rd and 4th year students at the University of Aberdeen: Kings, Queens, Revolutionaries and Outlaws: The Politics and Culture of the Caribbean, and The Haitian Earthquake of 2010: The Aftershocks of History.  These complex topics revisit issues addressed in other courses—revolutionary upheaval, liberation politics, and societal chiasmus—but bookends those issues through a reading across temporalities.  In essence, the courses ask what is the Caribbean/the Antilles/the West Indies and to whom does it matter.  Both would prove to be daunting and challenging courses.  Worth it?  Without a doubt.

I participated in this year’s Just Teach One as one of the few history-based instructors. Continue reading “Caribbean Inflections”

Making Literary History: Just Teaching One in an Undergraduate Survey Course

Jon Blandford

Bellarmine University

I decided to incorporate Humanity in Algiers into the undergraduate survey course I teach every fall, which covers American Literature from its beginnings to 1865.  As anyone who teaches a course with such a broad scope is no doubt well aware, it can be difficult to find time to cover all of the usual suspects, let alone to include lesser-read works.  That said, because most of my students in this course are English majors, one of my goals is not only to familiarize them with a range of texts and authors, but also to get them to think like critics—i.e., to reflect on why it is that scholars have assigned meaning and value to certain texts, and also how those values have shifted over time.  I want my students to understand that the canon of American literature is Continue reading “Making Literary History: Just Teaching One in an Undergraduate Survey Course”

Gendered Abolition

Matthew Duques

North Dakota State University

I taught Humanity in Algiers: Or, The Story of Azem near the end of a unit on early national literature in my undergraduate American Literature survey course. Prior to our discussion of HIA, we had read poems by Philip Freneau and Phillis Wheatley, tracts by Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Toussaint L’ouverture, and novels by Charles Brockden Brown (Edgar Huntly) and Hannah Foster (The Coquette). I provided students with background information about the Barbary Wars and the proliferation of early U.S. stories and dramas with captivity in northwestern Africa as their primary subjects. I asked them to write short responses about how HIA differs from one other text we had read in the class.

In one response, a student observed Continue reading “Gendered Abolition”

Frontiers of the 19C

Andy Doolen

University of Kentucky

Thanks to Duncan and Ed for inviting me to participate in the Just Teach One project. This semester I taught Humanity in Algiers in a graduate seminar that explored “the Frontiers of 19th Century U.S. Culture,” a broad theme cooked up under duress and on the spot as our department scheduler waited patiently for me to come to a final decision on next year’s seminar topic. I had the vague notion of a sort of “mash up” inspired by Continue reading “Frontiers of the 19C”

Canonicity and Memory

Drew Newman

SUNY at Stony Brook

I started my lecture on Humanity in Algiers by talking about Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws.” 

My purpose was to introduce JTO by thinking about why some cultural artifacts become canonical while others, as is written on the JTO page, become “neglected and forgotten.” Of course, the students in my large American Literature I lecture survey knew “Jaws,” as they demonstrated by humming the theme song. But when we looked up 1975 in IMDb, which lists the films from that (apparently quite kinky) year in order of popularity, we quickly found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. This brief exploration illustrated a concept articulated by Aleida Assman, who makes a distinction between the “Canon” and “Archive” in cultural memory: Continue reading “Canonicity and Memory”

Stretching Generic Conventions

Kelly Wisecup

University of North Texas

I taught Humanity in Algiers: or, the Story of Azem in my fall 2013 course “Unredeemed Captives,” a capstone course for English majors.  The class focused on narratives by or about captives who, because of personal choice or other circumstances, do not return from their captivity or struggle to reenter Anglo- and U.S. American society after they are forced to return. I taught Humanity in Algiers in the first part of the semester, in which we read “classic” captivity narratives to establish the formal qualities of the genre.  I anticipated that Humanity would broaden the geographic scope of the course even while providing Continue reading “Stretching Generic Conventions”

Global Perspectives on Captivity and Slavery

Melissa Adams-Campbell

Northern Illinois University

First, thank you to Duncan Faherty and Ed White for inviting me to participate in Just Teach One. Humanity in Algiers easily fits into the larger themes of my upper-division undergraduate Early American Literature survey. I placed it as the last text in a unit on captivity narratives that also included works by Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, John Smith, Mary Rowlandson, and Briton Hammon.  Later in the semester, we will reconsider the captivity genre, in line with Gordon Sayre’s expanded approach (“Renegades”), as we explore Indian Removal as a captivity experience with Black Hawk’s Life of Black Hawk.

Humanity offers an entry point into many familiar topics in early American Literature courses: Continue reading “Global Perspectives on Captivity and Slavery”

Among Slave Narratives

Michael Drexler

Bucknell University

I taught Humanity in Algiers in a 200 level course called Slave Narratives.  We read the novella early in the semester after Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative and between the The Address of Abraham Johnstone, a Black Man, Who Was Hanged at Woodbury and A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa.  In the context of these late 18th-century narratives, Humanity in Algiers showed how the ethnographic impulse in the slave narrative may have been a response to readers’ expectations that confrontation with the exotic other would include such detail. Continue reading “Among Slave Narratives”

“The Problem of Sympathy” or “Teaching to Teach”

Laura M. Stevens

University of Tulsa

In truth, I did not just teach one. Instead, I assigned all available texts from the Just Teach One Project, Humanity in Algiers: or, the Story of Azem, The Story of Constantius and Pulchera, Amelia: or the Faithless Briton, for a graduate seminar, “Early American Literature: Thinking, Feeling, Believing, Praying.” As the title indicates, the course used these four activities as unifying conceits for examining a range of writings produced in, or in response to, the Americas before approximately 1800. This approach facilitated a bit of transnational or comparative study, with, for example, a class on “Prayers and Beliefs” that included accounts of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Native creation narratives, and the Bay Psalm Book, and a class on “Thinking about Thinking” bringing together writings by Lahontan, Murray, and Jefferson. I also structured the course with a heavy emphasis on Continue reading ““The Problem of Sympathy” or “Teaching to Teach””

Rewarding Passivity

Marty Rojas

University of Rhode Island

My class, an upper-level undergraduate seminar on the literature of enlightenment and revolution, read Humanity in Algiers midway through the semester. Most students were English majors or double majors in English and Primary or Secondary Education. In the first weeks of the class we had grappled with Letters of the American Farmer, Notes on the State of Virginia, and an extensive selection of Phillis Wheatley’s poems and letters. My students were becoming versed in the rhetoric of freedom and anti-slavery. Yet, so far we had read exclusively non-fictional prose and poetry. Continue reading “Rewarding Passivity”