Homegoing: Individual Stories, Historical Trauma, Collective Liberation
This Fall 2017, the SAS Honors Program will build our 10-week, 1-credit mission course around our Honors summer reading, Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi’s epic novel, spanning the histories of enslaved and colonized peoples in West Africa and North America from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day, engages a range of topics -- from collective and individual trauma, the weight of history, and reparations, to the role of fiction and empathy in healing and redemption – that will provide us with much to analyze, contemplate, and discuss.
Through small section discussions and large assembly lectures our course will address the entwined collective/historical trauma of slavery in the New World and colonialism in Africa through a variety of different lenses (storytelling, history, memory, the science of epigenetic, as just a few possible examples). Taking our inspiration from the conclusion of Gyasi’s novel, we’ll discuss ways to move beyond trauma to liberation through a variety of proposals ranging from reparations (we’ll read Ta-Nehisis Coates’s seminal 2014 article, “The Case for Reparations”) to commemoration (we’ll discuss the work of the Scarlet and Black project at Rutgers)
Yaa Gyasi herself will provide the first lecture for our course at the Summer Reading Celebration and Induction Ceremony, open to all incoming Honors Program students, on September 1, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the College Avenue Student Center. We hope that all students registered for Honors Colloquium will attend Yaa Gyasi’s talk on Friday, September 1.
The course meets for ten weeks, running from Wednesday, September 13 through Wednesday, November 15, with four large assemblies, four facilitated discussion sections, one final project workshop session, and one final session for presentations. The large assemblies will take place on Wednesday mornings, 11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. in the New Academic/Humanities Building on College Ave. The small discussion sections will meet in a variety of rooms on the College Avenue campus during that same time period on Wednesdays. Throughout the course students will post discussion responses to the lectures, readings, and outside events on Sakai. Students will participate in a choice of two different final group projects.
Students are also required to attend to additional “outside events” to build on the themes of the course, explore the broader Rutgers community, and region. One of these optional events will be a special Honors bus trip, open to 19 students, to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. Friday, November 3rd.
From publisher Penguin Randomhouse:
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.