Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literary and Cultural Theory of Africa and the African Diaspora

ENGL 775.401

 This course has two priorities. In the first place, we will read a number of influential works of theory which have and continue to shape the field of Africana studies, bearing in mind questions of whether, why, and how it makes sense to think of African and African Diaspora cultural expression in tandem. To this end we will survey the “state of the field” by looking at key primary texts recent research has engaged with, while tracing some of the unexpected sites where the work of theorizing took place – autobiography, oratory, early anthropology, performance practices and visual arts. A second priority is to rehearse an archive of theory that centers on the intellectual labor of black women. This approach is grounded in the matrifocal dimension of many African, African American (understood hemispherically) and Black European cultures. Readings may include Ama Ata Aidoo, Ifi Amadiume, Anthony K. Appiah, James Baldwin, Ken Bugul, Maryse Condé, Carol Boyce Davies, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall,  Zora Neale Hurston, Claudia Jones, Audre Lorde, Achille Mbembe, Kobena Mercer, V.Y. Mudimbe, Stephanie Newell, Lynn Nottage, Sarah Nuttall, Sol Plaatje, Eslanda Goode Robeson, the Sistren Collective, Maria Stewart .   Assignments will include a research term paper, an annotated bibliography and a syllabus related to their own research interests.