Course Instructor Days Times Room
ENGL4790 PAYTON, JASON TR 11:00 AM 0118


The image of the pirate looms large in contemporary American culture. From Black Sails to Pirates of the Caribbean to Captain Phillips, the pirate in popular culture is a rogue par excellence, repulsive and attractive in equal measure. Pirates’ refusal to be bound by the norms governing civil society makes them simultaneously liberating and threatening figures. The dialectic between attraction and revulsion that dominates contemporary representations of pirates in television and film has a long history that reaches all the way back to the colonial period. 

In this course, we will study the emergence of a cultural poetics of piracy from the early Americas to the present day through a range of literary texts and visual media. We will explore the literature of the 17th-century Caribbean buccaneers, the 18th-century North Atlantic pirates of the Golden Age, and the 21st-century pirates of Somalia. We will read a range of texts including travel narratives, sermons, records of pirate trials executions, novels, news reports, and cinematic texts. Along the way, we will consider piracy as a mode of critique of nationalism, imperialism, and capitalism, and we will consider as well what is at stake in producing narratives that communicate the moral of the story of piracy to historical and contemporary readers. 

Bullosa, They’re Cows, Were Pigs: 978-0802137869

Defoe, Robinson Crusoe: 978-0393964523

Defoe, A General History of the Pyrates: 978-0486404882

Exquemelin, The Buccaneers of America: 978-0486409665

Melville, Billy Budd and Other Stories: 978-0140390537

Stevenson, Treasure Island: 9780199560356

Tyler, The Algerine Captive: 978-0375760341

Winkfield, The Female American: 978-1554810963