Beloved and Halfway Home: Narrating the Aftermaths of Slavery and Mass Incarceration in the United States (APA4165.02)

Vivian Nixon

This course examines Beloved, by Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Toni Morrison and a contemporary nonfiction work in the social sciences by Reuben Jonathan Miller. Together, these works of literature embody an intersectional approach to critical race theory, which incorporates race, gender, social policy, structural violence, and culture in experiences uniquely shared by Blacks, the Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)—particularly Black people–across the borders of economic status and locality. The fictional and non-fiction narratives encounter and interrogate a broad array of tough circumstances and behaviors: infanticide, romantic relationships, male dominance, white supremacy, interpersonal and institutional violence, family dynamics and tensions, socio-economic conditions, cultural survival, etc. Toni Morrison’s novels are esteemed in the Black American literary tradition and she among few Black women that hold equal esteem in the larger literary canon. Written in 1987, Beloved, having won the Pulitzer Prize, is considered to be her greatest novel. The scenes of the narrative are placed in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. Morrison takes a fearless look at oft-suppressed details about the horrors and trauma of slavery. Reuben Jonathan Miller’s distinct ethnographic work explores various aspects of U.S. systems of mass punishment. It was published in 2021 to rave reviews in literary and academic circles. These works combine to offer narrative framing and empirical evidence that helps to inform a complex perspective on three practices deeply rooted in American culture and society: white supremacy, punishment, and violence.

Required Reading:
Toni Morrison –Song of Solomon, 1977; Beloved, 1987
Bruce Western –Homeward Life in the Year After Prison; 2018
Danielle Sered –Until We Reckon Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, 2019
Reuben Jonathan Miller –Halfway Home Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration, 2021


Learning Outcomes:
critical race theory
analyzing a text
understanding complex perspectives
difference between narrative and empirical evidence


Delivery Method: Remotely accessible
Prerequisites: Contact Susan Sgorbati (ssgorbati@bennington.edu) for registration.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 2
M/Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (2nd seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 10
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Advancement of Public Action , Remotely Accessible
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