African American Literature

Introduction to African American literature is one of my core classes.

African American literature has engaged consistently with the relationship between being black and being American. W. E. B. Du Bois asked if it was possible to be considered black and American at the same time. Many writers and artists believed that control of representations of black Americans in the artistic sphere would lead to greater representation in political and social spheres. Black artists, intellectuals, and activists debated whether they should respond to white stereotypes or if they should insist on the right of self-definition, whatever the consequences. 

In this course we will examine some of the major debates and central texts of African American literature from many different perspectives. The central theme of the course will be the relationship between race, representation and identity. You will express and experience your ideas related to these topics through a variety of digital tools. The issues taken up by the writers and artists we will consider over the semester are still important and unresolved for us hundreds of years later.

This course is designed to offer you an overview of African American literature from just before the turn of the 20th century until near the present. It will incorporate several thematic aspects that, through our reading and discussion, will help shed light on themes relevant to African American life and culture as well as why various ideas are presented to the public as fact today.  Through our discussion, we will also deconstruct power, class, gender, race, sexuality and politics as they each relate to what may have inspired African American artists to create and to which many responded in a variety of ways prior to and during the 20th century as well as into the 21st century. The course will offer a different theme each semester.