African American literary criticism begins as a vindicational project in which expressive culture serves as a means to verify African Americans’ place in the human family and demonstrate racialized being as a product of rationality, moving in the latter stages of the century toward a more vexed notion of culture whose central nodes are performativity and improvisation. This course will move across a broad set of concerns: intellectual history, hermeneutical practice, canon formation, periodization (e.g. modernism and postmodernism), and theorizing the African American subject. In studying the development of African American critical practice in the 20th Century, what we have traditionally deemed as secondary sources will be considered primary, with primary sources (e.g. fiction, poetry, and drama) becoming secondary. Obviously, the discursive properties of race, class, gender, and sexual preference will be central to our effort to historicize interpretive practices. It will be equally important to see the critical project in relation to the efforts to achieve social equality and political agency. Authors in the course may include Sterling A. Brown, William Braithwaite, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Addison Gayle, Toni Morrison, Hortense Spillers, Barbara Christian, Houston Baker, Henry Louis Gates, and Paul Gilroy. We may also be joined by guest lecturers who will offer additional perspectives.
Undergraduates need to fill out a permit form and receive the approval of the Graduate Chair, their advisor, and the professor for all 500-level courses.