Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Black South Writers

ENGL 264.401

Do writers who are defined racially as “Black” contribute to the category termed “Southern” literature?  Is the category changed by the inclusion of black writers?  Is Alice Walker right in asserting that Southern literature means white writers?  Do men and women writers have different responses to regional identification? We will examine the issues of race, region, place, and space as categories of analysis through the lens of “Black South,” a term coined during the Black Arts explosion in the South during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the 1970s. We will consider whether periodization or historical location matters in constituting spatial and cultural affiliation, especially in reading writers emerging in the first half of the twentieth century (Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright), along side  those from the Civil Rights era (Ernest Gaines, Nikki Giovanni, Etheridge Knight), and those from the Post-Civil Rights generation (Randall Kenan, Shay Youngblood, Natasha Trethewey, Olympia Vernon, Kevin Young), as well as those whose canons overlap delineated time lines, periods, or movements (Margaret Walker, Maya Angelou, John A. Williams, Alice Walker).  Our examination will include attention to “blackness” and “southern” as constructed categories within Southern literature and to representations of gender socialization and maturation.  Our  samples will come from fiction (Tina McElroy Ansa, Gayl Jones, Pearl Cleage), poetry (Sybil Kein, Yusef Komunyakaa, Brenda Marie Osbey, Sterling Plumpp), and drama (Alice Childress, Samm-Art Williams, Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, and the Free Southern Theater), and prose (Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Kalamu ya Salaam, Lorenzo Thomas, Tom Dent).  Several films and film excerpts will be screened.  A class presentation, a short essay, a midterm examination, and a final paper or project are required.

Fulfills Cultural Diversity in U.S. requirement.

fulfills requirements
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major