The writing of African Americans has played a crucial part in shaping a distinct yet fundamental presence in U.S. society and culture. As well as testifying to many massive upheavals, injustices, and movements in American history, black writers have often been at the forefront of literary experiment and development. This course will examine fiction and poetry that has attempted to shift African American experience from the literary margins into a place of undeniable cultural prominence. The primary reading will be from the twentieth century, covering writing from the Harlem Renaissance, the great period of literary experimentation and militancy in the 1940s and 50s that followed it, and the writing of the Civil Rights period through to the present day. There will also be some secondary engagement with examples of folk tales and nineteenth century slave narrative and poetry that inform later work. Following the development of twentieth-century African American writing in a generally chronological manner, we can chart developments of form, concern and effect in this vibrant, vital literature, as well as considering its links to broader historical, social and theoretical changes.
- Module Supervisor: Owen Robinson