Course Detail


African American Literature


In this course, we will explore a new genealogy for protest literature vis-\00E0-vis an African American literary subgenre that few scholars have examined intently. \200BWe will navigate gaps in the current historicization of African American elegiac writing and its poetic elegies as we explore a centuries-long genealogy and theorization of protest in African American poetics and performance. We resituate the poetics in the prose and lineated poems of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, James Baldwin, and others through the mid-twentieth century on a continuum of protest, not as its progenitors. Rather, our genesis for protest will be in the eighteenth-century ballads of Lucy Terry Prince, the nameless toilers who birthed the Negro Spirituals, and the poems of Phillis Wheatley. As a historiography of African American poetics these women to immediate past poet laureate Natasha Trethewey unfolds, gendered readings parse the ways that black women personae serve as harbingers of post-traumatic protest in the lingering aftermath of chattel slavery and its cruel twentieth-century descendant, Jim Crow. We will interrogate how these personae allow African American elegists to make palpable the experiences that mark black women as forebears of a multi-ethnic consciousness that complicates the relationship that generations of their sons' and daughters' sons and daughters, conceived under duress at best and by force at worst, have with black maternity and their own sexualities.


(Offered Fall 2015.)