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Topics in African-American Literature

ENGL 281.401


In this seminar we will direct our attention away from the South (erstwhile repository of African American cultural history) as we follow the course of black migrants South to North, inquiring into the ways in which they accommodated themselves to urban spaces which they both discovered and, inevitably, changed. As we read fiction, poetry and occasional non-fiction pieces that span the period 1900-1960 (roughly), we will ask ourselves how these writers construct an urban difference - the threats, dangers, opportunities, and mysteries of the city; a distinctive black-urban vitality - and how they sustain that difference in the face of an all-too-familiar (to southerners) social and economic marginalization; in the presence of the North-South "ties that bind." We'll assist ourselves in these inquiries by listening to and doing a little reading on black music and its intersections with black literature. Writers will include Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, Ann Petry, Chester Himes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin among others.


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