ENGL628A - Readings in African American Literature

This course surveys some of the central texts of African American literature from 1900 to the 1990s, looking first at how these texts are bound to U.S. themes of racial identity, cultural nationalism, civil rights, and racial identity and the ways they articulate a diasporic, transnational, or international consciousness.  We will also be looking for how these texts represent African American literary modernism(s).  We will focus specifically on the ways these issues are addressed through formal strategies. 

Requirements: one in-class oral presentation, two short response papers (3-5 pages), one longer paper (10-12 pages),  final exam.                                  



W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903) 

James Weldon Johnson, Autobiography of An Ex-Coloured Man (1912/1927)

Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (1901)

Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928) 

Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade” and texts from Fire !!! (1926); Harlem Renaissance visual art of Aaron Douglas

Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children (1938)

Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go (1946)

Langston Hughes, poetry of the 1930s and 1940s and HUAC testimony

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952) and Ellison’s 1940s short stories from Flying Home & Other Stories

James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953);“Sonny’s Blues”; essays from Notes of A Native Son (1955)

Gwendolyn Brooks, from Blacks [A Street in Bronzeville (1945), (Maud Martha (1952), and The Bean Eaters (1960)]

Toni Morrison, Sula (1974)

John Edgar Wideman, Damballah (1990) and essays

Andrea Lee, selected stories from Interesting Women (2002); Essays by Danzy Senna, Rebecca Walker, Paul Beatty, Reginald McKnight           

Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle (1999)


Madhu Dubey, Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism (University of Chicago Press, 2003)

Kevin Bell, Ashes Taken For Fire: Aesthetic Modernism and the Critique of Identity, 2007.