2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

African American Literature


Winter 2013 quarter

Artee Young law, literature, theatre
Fields of Study
African American studies, cultural studies and literature
Preparatory for studies or careers in
liberal arts, education, humanities and social sciences.    

The goal of the program is to introduce students to a significant canon of American Literature that expands students' understanding of the literary contributions of Americans of African descent. Students will also gain knowledge of various genres contextualized in an historical continuum.

The program is grounded in an inquiry based approach and places the development of the literary canon in its evolving historical context. In the face of de jure laws prohibiting African Americans from reading or writing, what was the motivation of early writers of African descent to create stories based on their experiences in the Americas as well as their imaginations? What impact did evolving historical, social and economic circumstances have on the development of African American Literature? What is the current place and direction of the African American literary canon?

This program surveys the literary, historical, cultural, aesthetic, religious, social, philosophical and economic dimensions of literature by Americans of African descent. Through a thematic and chronological study of genres, canonical and lesser-known authors, this program explores the dimensions of the Vernacular Tradition and Slave Narratives from the 1760’s to the literary authors of the present. From Sejour to Phillis Wheatley to Toni Morrison to Grandmaster Flash, a bounty of writers, poets, preachers, essayists, and rappers will be included in our journey through a veritable gold mine of African American Literature.

In our review of the Vernacular Tradition, themes of freedom, transformation and transcendence will be central to our readings and discussions. As our focus turns to the Reconstruction Period, we will focus on themes presented and influenced by lynching, segregation, migration, and the women’s suffrage movement. Themes in the Harlem Renaissance Period reflect the thoughts of the “New Negro” as well as those writers of African descent who were associated with the Negritude Movement, writers of African descent from around the world. Between the years 1940 and 1960, writers expanded conventional literary boundaries and are best described as moving into a period of Realism, Naturalism and Modernism. This period intersects with the Great Migration when approximately five and half million African Americans migrated from the south to the north, and it is during this time that themes of migration, desegregation and social change abound in the literature. The Period from 1960-1970 has been referred to as The Black Arts Movement, and the literature produced reflects the social movements occurring in this country as well as abroad. The Viet Nam War and various other social upheavals including the civil rights movement, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Black Power and the New Left dominated thematic content in all genres that will be studied in this program. Literature since 1970 has taken a reflective view of past contributions of African American writers and has expanded on the concept of blackness, moving away from a single blackness to ask the question, as McKay and Gates articulate: “What in fact does blackness mean?”

In addition to the text, students will also read and include in their discussions material gathered from various online sources as well as handouts that will be distributed in class.

The program will include a variety of learning modes: lectures, discussion groups, films and videos, research teams, and production teams. Students will select a theme or author and produce an annotated bibliography to include an introduction of approximately 3 to 5 pages. Moreover, students will be placed in groups to develop and present a reader’s theatre production of an author’s works or a reader’s theatre presentation to include the literature of several authors. This can be a live presentation or a video, or a series of visual arts representations of the student’s work.

Book: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 27th, 2012 New offering added.