Identity, Authenticity, and Abolition: Olaudah Equiano's Autobiographical "Interesting Narrative" in the late Eighteenth and Early Twenty-first Centuries

2012-13 Pilot Project Seminar
Monday, October 22, 2012Tuesday, October 23, 2012

9 am - 3 pm

Room B92

Led by Valentina Tikoff, DePaul University
Full, Wait List Available
Programs for Teachers
Chicago Teachers as Scholars

“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African” is an autobiographical chronicle by and about a man who experienced both slavery and freedom in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Atlantic world. Initially published in 1789 while debates over the transatlantic slave trade raged, aspects of Equiano’s identity sparked interest and questions first among his contemporaries and again, more recently, among scholars. Equiano’s contemporaries who questioned his African birth often sought to undermine his credibility and the causes he espoused, especially abolition. Today, scholars on both sides of this debate are chiefly interested in this issue as a way of uncovering Equiano’s experiences and exploring how and why he wrote his life story as he did. In this seminar, participants will read portions of Equiano’s Narrative and examine some of the major contributions to current scholarship on his identity. In addition to the issue of his birthplace, readings and discussions also will explore how Equiano’s presentation of himself responded to and challenged eighteenth-century discussions of race, identity, and culture (especially African culture) that informed debates over the transatlantic slave trade. This seminar aims to enrich participants’ understanding of Equiano’s text and context, and to introduce them to literary and historical approaches to this fascinating and important work and its author.

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Cost and Registration Information 


Note: This seminar is full. A wait list is available.

For registration information please contact Rachel Rooney at