SPRING 2016 COURSES: Professor Jennifer James’s Introduction to Black American Literature

EN 1611.10:  Introduction to Black American Literature II, 20th-21st Century
Professor Jennifer James
T, TH: 12:45-2 PM

“Literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it.” –James Baldwin

This course introduces students to some of the most influential African American writers and literary movements of the 20 and 21st centuries. We will begin with the writers of the “Renaissance,” exploring how the Great Migration north in the 1920’s and 30’s shaped modern black art and culture. From there, we will examine a range of topics, paying particular attention the ways African American literature registers social movements: Civil Rights, Black Power, Feminism, Anti-War, and Black Lives Matter. The responses vary greatly; indeed, black writers continue to engage in serious, even contentious debates over the aesthetic and political goals of black art. Is literature truly “indispensable to the world,” as Baldwin suggests?  Does it hold the power to “change reality”?  Even by “a millimeter”? 

Writers will include Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Lorainne Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine and others. Genres include fiction, poetry and film.

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