Twenty-First Century African American Literature
How does Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “Praise Song for the Day,” written for the first inauguration of Barack Obama, relate to Amiri Baraka’s 9/11 poem “Somebody Blew Up America”? This seminar will explore the unnaming and experimentation that shape African American literature and theory in the early years of the 21st century. The frameworks of the seminar will include the post-9/11 novel, the poetics of the “new black,” black abstraction, twenty-first century practices of the black diaspora, and the “Age of Obama” turn to the satirical. Critical texts such as How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness and Abstractionist Aesthetics will be as central as cutting edge collections such as The Psychic Hold of Slavery and signature essays such as “On Failing to Make the Past Present.” This course will focus on the new literary voices that have emerged in the 21st century and, also, writers whose 21st century art is the late stage of their larger literary trajectory. Special attention will be given to Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Percival Everett, Octavia Butler, Claudia Rankine, Mat Johnson, and Paul Beatty.