What is African-American Literature?
From its inception, some have considered African American literature as impossible, while others saw it as an act of insurrection. As a result, the very idea of what constitutes an African American literary tradition or text has always been rife with debate and redefinition. In this course, we will examine how African American writers have responded to these questions of origin, legitimacy, and tradition by (1) wrestling with major themes and motifs of American literature; and (2) writing back to other African American writers. We will read writers within the major literary movements of their time as well as their direct influence on later generations. Some writers we will read are: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ayanna Mathis, and Janet Mock.