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Samplin’ and Signfyin’: Survey of African-American Literature

ENGL 081.401
instructor(s):
MW 3:30-5
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course will familiarize students with canonical writers in the African American literary tradition, while at the same time examining how particular genres like the slave narrative and “passing” novel,  certain events such as the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement, and distinct themes like invisibility, emasculation, and black womanhood, simultaneously resurface and change throughout African-American literary history.   Employing the theoretical concepts of “signfying” and “sampling,” we will focus on how later African-American writers and texts respond, revise, and riff on their literary predecessors.  In our course, we will pair up texts by Frederick Douglass and Octavia Butler, Zora Neale Huston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and Colson Whitehead, Nella Larsen and Danzy Senny, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Gloria Naylor, and Thomas Glave, and Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, and August Wilson.