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

ENGL 081.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora 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 read texts by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Octavia Butler; Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison; Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Colson Whitehead; James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen and Danzy Senny; and Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, and August Wilson.