HENK0386CU English - Free topic 5: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its Legacies (exam form A + B)
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is said to have sold more copies than any other book save the Bible. Abraham Lincoln, on meeting the author, exclaimed (supposedly), “So this is the little lady who started that great war.” The impact of this international best-seller extended deep into the twentieth century. To this day, being a “Tom” is sometimes used as an insult.
The course begins with a close study of the novel and its contexts. The Norton Critical Edition provides a range of contemporary responses and social and historical contexts, and it also outlines the major literary critical debates about the novel today.
We then move on to considering some of the book’s “legacies.” These include affirmative responses, like Twelve Years a Slave, which supplied documentary proof for Stowe’s episodes, and the host of dramatic reenactments of the book (including plays, musicals, silent films, and Walt Disney’s “Mickey’s Mellerdrama”). On the hostile front, Uncle Tom’s Cabin triggered an entire genre of “anti-Tom literature” by pro-slavery southerners, which depicted slaves as content (e.g. Aunt Phyllis’s Cabin), and, circuitously, the epic film Birth of a Nation, which dramatizes the heroic founding of the Ku Klux Klan. In addition, we will read Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, the true autobiography of an escaped slave for which Stowe’s work paved the way, and at least the first volume (and possibly film) of Gone with the Wind, another hugely best-selling American novel that can be read as an “answer” to Stowe.
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment