- CC 300 CX - African-American Literature
- 3 Credits
MWF 11:50am-12:40 pm - Professor Stewart
Cross-listed with ENGL 365 CX & 565 CX
Fulfills cultural diversity requirement
Today it is impossible to imagine American literature without noting the contributions of African American writers such as Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, and Langston Hughes. The critical and popular success of black writers, however, was far from inevitable. In fact, the entire idea of “African American literature” was antithetical to the slave system into which many of the early black writers were born. Slaveholders and stringent laws denied literacy, and the nation did not recognize slaves as full human beings, let alone American citizens. Lacking formal political representation, the writers we will study from this period struggled to realize another form of representation through literature, setting a pattern that would continue to produce profound literary achievements well after slavery’s abolition. As this course travels from the nineteenth century to our contemporary era, we will explore a series of major books and texts that spoke out against imposed silences and challenged institutionalized practices of prejudice and exclusion. These writings attested to the generative, emancipatory power of literature even as they chronicled ongoing social and political struggles. Moving from abolition to Oprah, political pamphlets to Book-of-the-Month club selections, we will consider how the production and circulation of such texts among actual communities of readers gave a unique body of literature the power to shape national politics and create a foundation for black culture.
Students in this course will complete a series of short writing assignments (1-2 pages), two longer papers (5-7 pages), and a final exam. Readings will be drawn from a range of writers and genres, spanning from the era of slavery to the modern day, and as we move into the twentieth century in particular, we will explore a cluster of writers centered around Chicago (writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright), as they consider the city’s racial and political landscape. Longer reading assignments will include such texts as Narrative of the Life (Frederick Douglass), Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs), The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. DuBois), A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry), and The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison). Shorter readings, poetry selections, and critical essays will either be provided through a course packet or via Blackboard.