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Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora cancelled

ENGL 071.401
instructor(s):
MW 2-3:30

During the last Presidential election, events most peculiar were amuck in the Senatorial race in the State of Illinois. Barack Obama, a Nigerian American, ran for the seat on the Democratic ticket and was challenged by the Republican candidate Alan Keyes. One of the barbs Keyes sent Obama's way was the claim that unlike Obama, he was a "real" African American and could therefore better represent the interests of the African American community. This exchange captures the theme I want to explore in this class. What does the word "Africa" mean? How and why is it deployed? Interestingly enough, Keyes' claims to authenticity seem to reject an "older" paradigm which sought to connect "all blacks in the diaspora." One of the things at work in that formulation was the assumption of a common "African" diasporic identity", a position commonly identified as pan-African. What has happened between Dubois' (and others) Panafricanism and Keyes' indeginization of "African" as American? What is the larger global context of this shift? What is its history? We Will begin by tracing the history of the concept "Diaspora." Then we will look at the origin(s) of the word 'Africa(n). We will consider the ways in which artists engage Africa as concept and as reality. How do particular philosophical-political attitudes toward Africa affect the writers' views of the function of literature (what are they doing when they write? Who is the intended audience?); What is the role of the artist's national/local culture in the shaping of his/her vision? We will compare each writer in terms of these criteria in order to develop some kind of "literacy" about the cultural products of the African diaspora. We will read, among others, W. E. B. Dubois, Walter Rodney, Ama ata Aidoo, Toni Cade Bambara, Maryse Conde; Marcus Garvey and give our attention to films and music that take up this debate. There will be a midterm, a final exam, and a short paper.