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African-American Literature

ENGL 081.401
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

In *Souls of Black Folk*, W. E. B. Du Bois offers a theory of Afro-American "double consciousness" -- the psychic "strife" which results from a perpetual recognition of "twoness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body" -- which has served throughout the twentieth century as the dominant formulation of Afro-American identity. In this course, we will explore literary delineations which respond, directly or indirectly, to Du Bois's 1903 formulation, and will seek to understand the variety of ways in which black writers delineate efforts on the part of the American citizen of African descent "to be both a Negro and an American" despite social, economic, and legislative impediments to the "merg[ing] of his double self into a better and truer self." In addition to a variety of writings which explore this Du Boisian theory, we will read novels (including THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, and THE BLUEST EYE), plays (A RAISIN IN THE SUN, DUTCHMAN, and FENCES), and poetry by a variety of twentieth century authors. Course requirements: three 5 pages essays (one of which you will have the opportunity to revise); a final examination; and active classroom participation.