HENK0361DU Engelsk - Frit emne: 20th Century African-American Fiction

Årgang 2013/2014
Engelsk titel

20th Century African-American Fiction


What Was/Is African American Literature?: 1900 to the present

                      Kenneth Warren’s recent book, What Was African American Literature? (2012), has received considerable attention for suggesting that “African American literature” emerged as a response to the structures and ideology of a racist U.S. society, and that this category of writing is now confined to the past. In this course, we will use Warren’s argument as a starting point for a discussion of the formation, revision, diversification and possible disintegration of “African American literature.” We will read a range of both canonical and non-canonical literary texts from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. The themes we will consider and discuss include:

  • The legacies of slavery in definitions of African American literature, from the slave narrative to the “neo-slave narrative”
  • White U.S. racism and black writers’ response to racism, from “racial uplift” narratives to calls for revolutionary resistance
  • Debates over the role of the U.S. South and the black southern “folk” in defining the African American experience and “authentic blackness”
  • The role of the Great Migration, especially to the urban North, in reshaping African American experience and African American literature
  • The benefits to and problems with categorizing and periodizing African American literature: i.e., the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, African American women’s writing
  • The role and representation of mixed racial and biracial identity in African American life and literature, from tropes of the “tragic mulatto” to more recent narratives in the “age of Obama”
  • How ideas of transnationalism, diaspora, and Pan-Africanism have challenged “African American exceptionalism” (Paul Gilroy) and complicated definitions of “African American literature” as confined within the U.S. nation state
  • How questions of genre (fiction, short stories, slave and neo-slave narratives, autobiographies, plays, essays, experimental writing) and publication form have shaped definitions of African American literature, in terms of what has been included and excluded
  • Recent debates over “post-racial” or “post-black” identity, and how it may or may not relate to debates over the end of “African American literature”

Primary texts will be chosen from (NB: subject to selection and change): Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces (1900); James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912); Jean Toomer, Cane (1923); Langston Hughes, selected poetry; Zora Neale Hurston, selected short stories and/or Mules and Men (1935); Richard Wright, Native Son (1940) or Black Boy (1945); Gwendolyn Brooks, selected poetry; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952); James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (1956) and/or The Fire Next Time (1963); Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959); John Oliver Killens, Youngblood (1954); or And Then We Heard the Thunder (1963); Leroi Jones, Dutchman (1964); Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965); Nikki Giovanni, selected poems; Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972); Alice Walker, Meridian (1976); Alex Haley, Roots (1977); Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1978) or Tar Baby (1981); Paule Marshall, Praisesong for the Widow (1983); Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990); Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father (1995);  Percival Everett, Erasure (2001) or I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2010); Heidi Durrow, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010).

Students will also be expected to purchase and read Warren’s What Was African American Literature; other secondary reading will be included in the reading plan. Some prior knowledge of African American literature, including pre-1900 writing, will be an advantage.

Exam form preference: final written paper (exam form A).

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7,5 ECTS
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