ENGL368J - Special Topics in the Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora: Racial Discourse at the Nadir

Historians have given the term “nadir” to the post-Reconstruction period of U.S. history (1877-1914) that marked a new low point for African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War.  These decades witnessed the fundamental betrayal of the promises of Emancipation, resulting in a dramatic deterioration in race relations.  Courts enacted legal decisions against African Americans (Plessy v. Ferguson), white mob violence (including lynching) increased substantially, and social discourses justifying these actions (the writings of white supremacist Thomas Dixon, for example) proliferated.  African Americans responded to such threats through political and social action as well as protest literature.  This course will focus on the function of the African American novel during this period.  Authors include Frances E. W. Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Charles Chesnutt, Sutton Griggs, and Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Among topics to be discussed are black Americans’ ambivalence towards the past, and slavery specifically; acts of commemoration and the creation of collective memories; historical and interior consciousness; the drive toward modernity and cultivation of the image of the New Negro.REQUIREMENTS: oral presentation; reading quizzes; midterm; two papers; final exam.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of department.