ENG 327 African American Fiction: Dark Laughter: African American Satire
African American literature features a long tradition of satire aimed not just at the society at large, but at sectors of African American society as well. In this course, students will explore a variety of examples of satire, both in the novel and in other mediums, including film, art and comics. We will also explore the potential limits of satire as social commentary and call to action as well as the ways in which satire may be misunderstood. Texts include The White Boy Shuffle (Paul Beatty), Right Here, Right Now (Trey Ellis), The Return of Simple (Langston Hughes), The Cotillion (John O. Killens), Japanese By Spring (Ishmael Reed), Black No More (George Schuyler) and Infants of the Spring (Wallace Thurman).
ENG 327 African American Fiction: The Lower Frequencies: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and the Black Literary Tradition
Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, is a signature African American text for several reasons. It utilizes vernacular creative forms that precede it, like folktales and the blues. It partakes of the literary tradition that comes before it by “speaking” to writers like Arna Bontemps, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Rudolph Fisher, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. It influences the texts that follow it, fiction by writers like Chester Himes, Leon Forrest, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Albert Murray and Toni Cade Bambara. This course will investigate the literary impact of Ellison’s timeless novel on the African American literary tradition, and vice versa. Texts include Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Casebook (John Callahan), Black American Short Stories: A Century of the Best (John Henrik Clarke), Calling the Wind: Twentieth Century African American Short Stories (Clarence Major) and Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (Eric Sundquist).
ENG 328 African American Poetry: The Function of Black Art
The first decades of the 20th century witnesses two approaches to the nature of art. On one hand, ‘art for art’s sake’ demands that art be appreciated for its beauty. On the other hand, ‘art as propaganda’ insists that art function to educate, illuminate and cause societal change. African American artists have long wrestled between these two orientations. This course will examine how various black poets resolve this dilemma by taking a chronological look at the tradition. Our study of black poetry will focus both the literary and performative aspect of the work. In addition, this course will consider recurrent themes and topics in the poetry, the changing use of language, and the impact of other creative forms on African American poetry. Texts include The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton, eds) and Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices (William Packard).
ENG 328 African American Poetry: Genius Does Not Grow on Trees: Legacies in African American Poetry
In this class, we will undertake a study of African American poetry from the beginning to the present, paying special attention to the way more contemporary poets adopt and adapt the aesthetics and subject matter of earlier poets of color. Many people tend to divide African American poetry into two entirely separate camps: the hip, new, socially relevant sensibility of spoken word and the old-school, tired, and inconsequential world of poets before the 1960s. The African American poetic tradition, like genius in Al Young’s poem, does not grow on trees. Rather than a haphazard and accidental phenomenon, the tradition represents the development of an African American cultural form passed down from generation to generation that deserves to be studied. Moreover, black poets have invoked a number of other literary influences in their work from a variety of cultures, including Asian and African. Spoken word owes it “a million love dollars” for preserving an art form that greatly informs its own movement. Instead of divorcing black poetry from other traditions, this course will reveal the continuity between generations of poets from a variety of traditions and provide students with a critical vocabulary to describe that continuity. Texts include The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip Hop and the Poetry of a New Generation (Mark Eleveld, ed), Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present (Joanne V. Gabbin, ed), The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (Michael Harper, ed).
Tricksters in African American Literature
African American Responses to Faulkner
The Post-Soul Aesthetic