In this course we will explore ways of thinking about the idea of the African American literary tradition. How did this complex, historically evolving, tradition emerge? What is its relationship to history? What are its social functions, and what are its links to other spheres of African American expressive culture? What are the aesthetic forms, styles, moods, political and philosophical conversations, and collective movements that shape this tradition? Lastly, how do we read African American literature today?
Assigned reading may include poetry by Phillis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Claudia Rankine; novels by Toni Morrison and Ntozake Shange; plays by Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson; and short stories by James Baldwin, Samuel Delany, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, and Edward P. Jones. Assignments will include two short essays and a final paper.