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Introduction to African-American Literature

ENGL 081.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

In this introductory course we will be concerned with two major issues: the attempts of writers and their critics to define, or to refuse to define, an African American literature and an African American literary tradition; and the ways in which this literature can be understood in either case to construct Americans of African descent as political, racial, gendered, human subjects. Although we will begin with what are considered to be foundational texts in the literary tradition - antebellum slave narratives - and we will investigate the ways in which these and successor narratives re-conceive this slavery history, our focus will in fact be upon the ways in which all these texts attempt to seize the power to (re-)define "race" - or "blackness"; culture; self. Writers will include Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Charles Chesnutt, Ann Petry, Toni Morrison, and Sherley Ann Williams, among others.