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African American Raced Space

ENGL 281.401


1">            Our concern will be with space as materiality and idea in texts by African American writers.  Space provides another site for thinking about literature.  For example, approaching space as inseparable from social processes and as a site of struggle over value and meaning involves examining narrative and the structures underpinning and driving narration itself.  Space also embodies physical and material dimensions that turn on issues of power.  Spatial constructions, spatial parameters, and experiential boundaries permeate political, social, economic, and psychological dimensions but are often overlooked as manifestations of culture and environment.  Increasingly integrated into the formulation of social theories, space study today attracts scholars, such as Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, David Harvey, bell hooks, Doreen Massey, and Yi-Fu Tuan, whose theoretical concerns range from postmodernism and globalization to the body and prisons. 


1">            We will interrogate the relationships between race, racial conditions and space (whether bodily, global, or textual).  We will consider how African American writers, such as Harriet Jacobs, Charles Chesnutt, W. E. B. Du Bois, Rudolph Fisher, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Aishah Rahman, Alice Walker, John Edgar Wideman, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, Yusef Komunyakaa, Brenda Marie Osbey, Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethewey, Nikki Finney, and Pearl Cleage, confront and represent space.  We will pose a few key questions. Are African American texts inscribed with an awareness of the social functions of spatial practices? Do African American texts represent space as central to the production of race-based identities and social relations? Are geographical claims implicit in the transgression of legal attempts at racial exclusion and similar practices of power and privilege? Do regulatory boundaries delimit not merely access to space, but also subject formation and agency?


1">            One short paper, a midterm examination, a class presentation with a written component, and a final paper/project are required.


fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major