ENGL472 - African-American Literature: 1945 to Present

In this course we will look at key texts in African American literature, trying to see how narratives change in relation to historical, political, social, as well as literary contexts. Paying particular attention to the genre of the Bildungsroman as well as to the influence of the Great Migration and mass culture, we will consider these texts as competing performances of cultural identities that are constituted by differences of race, gender, class, and sexuality. We will constantly ask questions about the relationship between literary texts and historical events and cultural formations: How do these texts recall, re-imagine, represent, and critically examine (a) the Jim Crow south, (b) The Great Migration, (c) World War II, (d) Communism, (e) the possibility of interracial alliances and solidarity, (f) the tensions between U.S.-born blacks and Caribbean blacks, (g) racialized identities, (h) multiculturalism, (i) gender? How do these texts represent the relationship between literature and mobility, between mobility and citizenship? Since theories of the transnational teach us to think in international as well as national terms and to question conventional configurations of ―black‖ identity as primarily national, we will ―[widen] the context in which black American cultural production is interpreted,‖ looking at both the familiar spaces of African American travel (the rural South & the urban North) as well as at the less recognized locations of black migration and travel such as the U.S. West, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.


Two English courses in literature or permission of the department.