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African American Literature

ENGL 570.401
instructor(s):
T 12-3

This course is an advanced survey of Afro-American novels of the twentieth century. Generally, the texts we will read fit unproblematically into what a majority of scholars in the field would deem the core of the Afro-American literary tradition. One of our tasks will be to explore the characteristic assumptions of this tradition and to assess the degree to which the novels we investigate reflect or help to determine its contours. If, as one prominent scholar claims, "critics half-perceive and half-invent their culture, their myths, and themselves," how do we identify some of the myths and preconceptions which motivate black American literary canonicity? In what ways do considerations such as class, region, ideology, gender, sexuality, and race help to influence critical and creative figurations of core, black, canonical value and values? How do theoretical formulations of the constructedness of blackness, canons, and value itself problematize the very project -- that is, studying Afro-American novels -- of this course? In addition to reading studies of Afro-American literary tradition, we will examining, among other novels, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-COLORED MAN, QUICKSAND, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, NATIVE SON, INVISIBLE MAN, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, SULA, THE CHANEYSVILLE INCIDENT, MAMA DAY, SARAH PHILLIPS, and PLATITUDES. Course requirements: one or two brief oral reports; the production and distribution of an annotated bibliography of critical works on and reviews of one of the novels; listserv participation; a 250 word abstract of your final essay; and a final, 15-20 page essay.