The African American short story has often investigated issues of gender and class. What does this say about the politics of African American identity? What constitutes "manhood" in African American culture; what does it mean to be "middle class"? Does this mean that "femaleness" and "working class" are opposing, lesser states that are, by definition, subordinate positions? Of particular interest in the course will be the nature of power and how it is addressed as both a fictional topic and a critical issue. We will also consider the generic and structural issues shaping the composition of the African American short story as well as the imperatives of oral culture as it relates to the literary imagination. Work for the course will consist of short papers, group projects, and class presentations. Readings will include selections from anthologies and collected stories by Jean Toomer, Toni Cade Bambara, Randall Kenan, and Reginald McKnight.