Af Am Lit & Theory: Power & Subjectivity (CSAP/LSE)

Power and Subjectivity in African American

This seminar examines African American Literature from the
vantage point of contemporary theories of power and subjectivity. The goal is
to orient students to recent questions concerning power and subjectivity and
apply them to African American Literature. We will consider how contemporary
theoretical approaches to power and subjectivity can be used to interpret the
texts under investigation.  In this way,
students will engage canonical African American Literature through a distinct
methodology that highlights how theory can be used to approach literature.  As such, we will ask ourselves the following
questions: how do we understand notions of power and subjectivity? How do
recent theories of power challenge, engage, and address subjectivity? How can
we utilize contemporary approaches to power and subjectivity as a hermeneutic
to critically engage African American Literature?  How does African American Literature itself
theorize connections between power and subjectivity?  How do African American writers address the
history of oppression and how does this inform their respective constructions
of black subjectivity? The course will include readings by prominent African
American authors such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, W.E.B
Du Bois, Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gayle
Jones, and Toni Morrison. Secondary readings include theorists such as bell
hooks, Stuart Hall, Achille Mbembe, Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon, Judith
Butler, Fred Moten, Giorgio Agamben, Orlando Patterson, Georg Wilhelm Hegel,
and Roberto Esposito.  We will also read
a wide range of secondary literary criticism that will not only inform class
discussions, but will also serve as models for the kind of writing students
will be expected to emulate.

Learning Outcomes

  • Gain
    knowledge of the history of African American Literature.
  • Understand
    African American Literature’s relationship with dominant theoretical and
    philosophical trends.
  • Develop critical research
    methods by learning to utilize theory in their critical scholarship.
  • Be prepared to deliver
    conference papers.
  • Practice writing and
    researching at an advanced level.

Required Texts

  • Baldwin, James.  Another
    and No Name in the Street
  • Douglass,
    Frederick.  My Bondage and My Freedom
  • Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk
  • Ellison, Ralph.  Invisible
  • Gaines, Ernest. 
    A Gathering of Old Men
  • Larsen, Nella.  Passing
  • Larsen, Nella. Quicksand
  • Jones, Gayle. 
  • Morrison, Toni. 
    The Bluest Eyes
  • Wright, Richard. 
    Native Son and Black
  • Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a
    Free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery’s Shadows
    Fall Even There
  • Course Reader



2 Conference Papers / Presentation (7 – 8 pages)

1 Research Paper (15-20 pages)