In this introductory course we will explore the ways in which African American fiction, non-fiction and autobiography can be understood to construct Americans of African descent as political, racial, gendered subjects. We will discuss the ways in which these texts conceive and preserve the history of slavery (and their role in claiming that history as a specifically African American history); the ways in which they represent race, a racial self and a racial self that is gendered (and the related issue of racial and/or cultural authenticity); and the ways in which they are otherwise shaped by their political milieu. Authors will likely include David Walker, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Anna Julia Cooper; Charles Chesnutt, Richard Wright and Ann Petry; Sherley Ann Williams and John Edgar Wideman. We will also read a little poetry and view one or two films.
This is a lecture/discussion course in which student participation will be critical. Course work will consist at minimum of three short-essay assignments, a take-home midterm exam, a final exam.