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Negro Apocalypse: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Poetics of Heartbreak

ENGL 281.401
also offered as: AFRC 281.401
R 1:30-4:30

In Black Reconstruction in America, Du Bois writes: “What was slavery in the United States? Just what did it mean to the owner and the owned?” But these are trick questions in a work of history that dwells in the moment of slavery’s endtime for 800 pages to consider the failure of emancipation and reconstruction to materialize black freedom. The questions become, What was jubilee? Just what did it mean? Did slavery end?

Beginning with an extended reading of Black Reconstruction in America, this course focuses on Du Bois’ six decade struggle to come to terms, in language, with the receding promise of emancipation (which he called the “negro apocalypse”). We trace the poetics of heartbreak in other works including The Souls of Black FolkDusk of Dawn, and Dark Princess.


Course requirements will include an oral presentation and two short essays.

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