African American Literature

This class is intended to introduce students to the literary works produced by African Americans in an effort to provide a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, foundation of African American literature. In this class we will interrogate the dynamics of African American literature by examining prominent African American literature across a host of genres: memoirs, novels, and science fiction/fantasy. This course will center on how America is represented from the stand point of African Americans in addition to understanding how African American writers negotiate identity in the face of American culture through literary representations. In addition to engaging literature, we will also focus on visual culture – paintings, photography, sculpture, documentaries, etc. – to come to terms with how the African American experience is expressed through a variety of mediums. In addition to secondary sources, primary texts include Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, Harriet E. Wilson’s Our Nig, Jean Toomer’s Cane, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time!, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt.


Student Learning Outcomes and Course Goals

Provide students with the ability to read, engage and interpret novels, plays, poetry, visual culture, and other expressive mediums.

Provide students with the ability to write clearly and construct original arguments about a particular text, both in visual and written form.

Provide students with the ability to communicate effectively about expressive mediums.


Required Texts

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom

Toomer, Jean. Cane

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time

Larsen, Nella. Passing

Butler, Octavia E. Kindred

Whitehead, Colson. Apex Hides the Hurt

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man

Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig; Or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black.