In this course, we will survey a variety of approaches that critics of Afro-American literature have employed over the last three decades to assess its formal and thematic contours. A persistent concern of black authors and critics has been to create -- and recognize -- black literature's culturally specific aspects, or what one scholar has termed its "signifying black difference." Why are black authors of the twentieth century so concerned with creating a literature that is identifiably black? What, precisely, does "blackness" mean to the authors and the scholars who explore their work? How is the americanness of their work manifested? How connected is black writing to mainstream literary trends, concerns, and formulations? How do black writers -- many of whom presuppose that there is or, in the absence of the devastating impact of American racism, could be, a unified black American community -- represent both interracial and intraracial tensions that are the result of racial, class, gender, regional, and other crucial differences? During the semester, we will attempt to answer these and other questions by reading (and *rereading*) twentieth century texts by black authors, and by exposing ourselves to a variety of critical analyses and works that these texts were influenced by or influenced in significant ways. Our aim, then, will be to analyze the origins, presuppositions, themes, and forms of these primary works in as broad a context as possible. These primary texts will be drawn from the works of both well established and more marginal black writers, and may include GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, PLATITUDES, THE PIANO LESSON, SONG OF SOLOMON, COLOR, THE WEARY BLUES, FOR COLORED GIRLS, PRAISESONG FOR THE WIDOW, THE CHANEYSVILLE INCIDENT, and a selection of short stories by writers such as Ellison, Gaines, Marshall, Walker, Johnson, and Baldwin. Course requirements: two 5 page papers, four 1 page responses to the secondary material, and a final examination.