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Narratives in Harlem Renaissance

ENGL 284.401
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

We will investigate a variety of texts -- poetic, historical, fictive -- written during and/or about the Harlem Renaissance, the first great period of black artistic productivity in America. By investigating the work of writers of this period, including Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston, and by examining scholarly and fictional commentary on this important sociocultural moment, we will develop an acute understanding of the aesthetic and ideological formulations which these writers produced and the social, economic, and political forces with which they grappled. In addition, we will seek to understand these writers' various representations of the complexities of their subjects' racial, gendered, and class positions, and their perceptions of the grounds upon which notions of a black (comm)unity would be forged. In other words, we will seek to understand what representations of this period have to tell us about the makings of a black race in America. Texts will include: CANE (Toomer), QUICKSAND (Larsen), INFANTS OF THE SPRING (Wallace Thurman), THE BIG SEA (Hughes), and THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (Hurston); selected short stories, poetry, and prose by Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, Sterling Brown, and Alain Locke; the critical studies WHEN HARLEM WAS IN VOGUE (David Lewis) and MODERNISM AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE (Houston Baker); and Toni Morrison's fictive explorations of the period, JAZZ. Course requirements: two papers, including a long (10-15 page) final project, one or two oral reports, and active class participation.