With a focus on close reading and persuasive argumentation, we ask two linked questions: How has Western culture defined itself through tales and declarations of liberation? How have such texts, though affirming freedom, also imposed constraining norms of gender, class, ethnicity, and sexuality?
We start with the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass, Mary Prince, and others and then look back to ancient accounts of deliverance, including Homer’s Odyssey, the Books of Genesis and Exodus, Plato’s Symposium, and the Gospel of Matthew. From the modern era we read Manuel Puig’s The Kiss of the Spider Woman, Toni Morrison’s Beloved (with Euripides’ Medea), and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. We also analyze the act of claiming freedom in the American Declaration of Independence, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s Communist Manifesto, and documents and films from other liberation movements.
Students master essay formats of increasing complexity by revising drafts and meeting regularly with the instructor, as well as by learning to use the resources of the Writing Center and the Library. They also on occasion collaborate in groups to lead discussion and analyze writing.