ENGL470 - African American Literature: Beginning to 1910

The readings for this course represent some of the major texts of the African-American literary tradition written between 1770 and 1910. The course posits that African-descended people in the United States did not begin life as “African Americans” but needed to construct an identity for themselves starting in the period of American independence and lasting up to the present. As we read the texts on the syllabus we will assess the ways in which such varied factors as links to Africa, enslavement, sense of place, language usage, religious affiliation, family ties, community belonging, participation in war, acquisition of citizenship, etc. functioned as important components of “African American” identity. In addition, we will analyze how these facets of human experience were given literary expression through a variety of genres, with a particular emphasis on autobiography, the novel, and poetry. Authors included Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Frances Harper, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. DuBois. REQUIREMENTS: oral presentation written up as a short paper; quizzes; midterm exam; paper (8-10 pp.); final exam.


Two English courses in literature or permission of department.