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Topics in African American Literature: The Harlem Renaissance

ENGL 281.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

This seminar is an exploration of the Harlem Renaissance or the “New Negro Movement,” the first modern literary and cultural movement among African Americans. Centered in New York City between 1919 and 1935, the Harlem Renaissance remains one of the major moments and movements in American life and literature. What circumstances and conditions fostered a flowering of African American artistic and intellectual life around 1919? How was race configured and constructed by “New Negro” creative writers and visual artists? Why were Ofays fascinated with Uptown black folk during the 1920s? What were the gender and class politics of the era, and how were they represented in “New Negro” artistic production? How did transnational confluences and international exchanges shape the movement? What constituted the literary and aesthetic achievements of the Renaissance artists? How did the Harlem Renaissance contribute to the making of American modernism? Readings from Alain Locke’s New Negro Anthology, and Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, Nella Larsen, Zora Hurston, Gwendolyn Bennett, Helene Johnson, Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman, Carl Van Vechten, Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Attention will be given to the roles of popular music, theatrical shows, and visual arts in forwarding the Harlem Renaissance. A research project accompanied by a class presentation will be required. Several short written responses will also be expected.