As it has evolved during the 20th Century, poetry by Americans of African descent has demonstrated as great a concern with issues of form, technique, and language as that written by any other group in the United States. And yet, African American poetry is engaged in a constant negotiation for adequate critical and academic space. In this seminar for advanced students, we will take up these issues in both their modern and postmodern settings. We will pay a great deal of attention to context: history, music, spirituality, and sexuality, as we investigate the politics of interpretation and audience. Poets studied in the course will include Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Sterling A. Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Ai, Lucille Clifton, Robert Hayden, Michael S. Harper, and Melvin Dixon. Coursework will consist of several short papers and one seminar-length paper.