Class name: “John Brown’s Body”
Taught by: Associate Professor of English Christina Zwarg
Here’s what Zwarg had to say about her class:
Martyr, fanatic, hero, revolutionary, terrorist, sage? Who was John Brown and what has he come to represent for our culture?
This course uses the spectacular life and death of John Brown to examine a common set of issues moving across two centuries. These interests include the place of violence in the cause of liberty; the shifting terrain of civil disobedience and terrorism; the cultural work of fear and preemptive force; the relationship of aesthetic value to changing social and political claims; and the role of race and gender in the construction of emancipatory rhetoric and national histories, including the repressed history of the Haitian revolution. In so doing we follow the lead of W. E. B. Du Bois, who, in 1962 on the eve of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, published a revised edition of his 1909 biography of Brown. Students follow the transformation of this story through a number of forms, including songs, critical essays, “confessions,” slave narratives, fiction, lectures, interviews, and poetry.
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Photo: A daguerreotype of Brown, taken by African American photographer Augustus Washington in Springfield, Massachusetts, circa 1846–47.