CC 325 B: African American Literature (Humanities: Lit or Cultural Diversity Requirement)
TR 1:30-2:45 pm
Fulfills the Humanities: Lit or Cultural Diversity requirement.
African American literature includes some of the richest and most innovative writing in the English language. Black writers have produced works that bent and reinvented literary genres to express the truths of black experience in the United States—from spirituals to hip hop, from essays to epic poems, from slave narratives to surrealist novels. Thanks to the efforts of such writers as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead and Ta-Nehisi Coates, no sentence now appears more glaringly absurd than Thomas Jefferson’s declaration of 1781: “Never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration.” In this course we will explore together how black writers have been transcending “the level of plain narration” since before the nation’s founding. We will examine a body of literature remarkable for its ingenuity, emotional depth, and multi-layered complexity, crafted in spite of monstrous impediments—mandatory illiteracy, terrorist violence, slavery, and bigotry. We will discover how, in the face of a deeply racist ideology that Jefferson articulated in its mildest form, African American writing has carved out a space for liberty with the tools of literature. In addition to engaging in a lively and enlightening semester-long conversation, you will also each have the opportunity to design and carry out a major interdisciplinary research project, which will culminate in a 15-page paper on a topic related to African American literature.