Ron Strickland Eng. 165: African American Literature Spring 1997

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Ron Strickland

Eng. 165: African American Literature

Spring 1997

Office: Stevenson 305
Office Hours: 9:00-10:00 MTR
Phone: 438-7596


Required Texts:

Melvin Donalson, ed. Cornerstones

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Octavia Butler, Kindred

Reserve Texts:

Mootrey and Smith, A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks; Kim Pereira, August Wilson: An African-American Odyssey; Franz Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks; Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark; Henry Louis Gates, The Signifying Monkey; Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology and African American Literature; Houston Baker, Rap, Black Studies,and the Academy; Houston Baker and Patricia Redmond, African-American Literary Studies in the 1990's; Michael Dyson, Reflecting Black; Molefi Asante, The Afrocentric Idea; Newfield and Strickland, After Political Correctness; E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy; Michele Wallace, Invisibility Blues; Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America; others, tba

Course Description:

The university course catalog describes the topic of this course as "contributions to American literature by representative Black authors, with emphasis upon the twentieth century." Though it has a long and rich tradition in American culture, the formal study of African-American literature in universities is a very recent phenomenon, dating largely from the 1960's. This institutional condition is symptomatically related to a number of questions that will concern us in this course: What is African-American literature? Literature written by African Americans? Literature written about African-American culture? Or, can the term be broken down into its separate parts: In what sense is it "African"? What is its relation to African culture and to the larger culture of the African diaspora? In what sense is it "American"? Are there characteristic qualities of African-American literature that make it different from African literature, more like American literature in general? In what sense are the texts to be studied "literature"? Are personal diaries and letters, sermons, speeches and popular song lyrics to be included?

Though the answers to some or all of these questions may seem self-evident, all of the ostensibly self-evident answers become problematic at some point. And most of the questions can be asked of literature in general. By focusing on these problematic points we can gain a more complete understanding of African-American literature and of the way literary discourse has functioned and continues to function in African-American culture and in American culture generally. These questions will be of continuing interest as we explore texts from different historical periods of the African-American experience.

Assignments and Grading Formula:

First paper (5-6 pages)..................... 40%
Final paper (5-6 pages)......................40%
Class participation & email micro-essays....20%

Reading and Discussion Schedule:

Introduction; Establishing E-mail Accounts Critical and Historical Contexts

Melvin Donalson, "Preface" (Cornerstones, xiii-xix)
"Overview: Literary Criticism and Theory" (Cornerstones, 847-55)
Charles Johnson, "Being and Race" (Cornerstones, 938-57)

The Oral Tradition

Melvin Donalson, "Overview" (Cornerstones, 3-10) In-class video, Keta

Jesse Jackson, "Common Ground and Common Sense" (Cornerstones, 66-76)
In-class video of Jackson's speech

Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" (Cornerstones, 30-3)
Jay, "Not Born on the Fourth of July," in Newfield and Strickland, Afer Political Correctness, 152-73 (on reserve)
E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy, pp. 1-26 (on reserve)

1st email micro-essay due; Discussion of issues raised in micro-essays

Sojourner Truth, "Aint I a Woman?" (handout)
bell hooks, from Aint I a Woman? (handout)
Booker T. Washington, "The Atlanta Exposition Address" (Cornerstones, 640-3)


Malcolm X and Alex Haley, from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Cornerstones, 128-31)
In-class video, excerpts from Malcolm X

Amiri Baraka, "Malcolm as Ideology" (Cornerstones, 742-55)
2nd email micro-essay due; Discussion of issues raised in micro-essays

2/18 Maya Angelou, from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Cornerstones, 674-90)
Booker T. Washington, from Up from Slavery (Cornerstones, 632-48)

2/20 Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Cornerstones, 618-32)
Olaudah Equiano, from The Interesting Narrative . . . (Cornerstones, 597-618)
Valerie Smith, "Form and Ideology in . . . Slave Narratives" (Cornerstones, 863-880)


Donalson, "Overview" (Cornerstones, 93-9)
Excerpts from Video, Poetry in Motion
Amiri Baraka, poems tba (handout)
Ntozake Shange, poems, tba (handout)

Sonia Sanchez, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 109-23)
Haki Madhubuti, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 178-82)
Derek Walcott, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 157-61)

Gwendolyn Brooks, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 100-8)
"We Real Cool" (handout)
Kent, "Gwendolyn Brooks' Poetic Realism" (Cornerstones, 109-23)
Essays from A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks (on reserve) tba

3rd email microessay due; Discussion of issues raised in micro-essays


Spring Break


Spring Break

Langston Hughes, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 140-4)
Video: Langston Hughes
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Mulatto," "Trumpet Player," "Ballad of the Landlord," "Madam and the Rent Man," "Dream Deferred," "Theme for English B" (handout)

First Formal Essay Due

Claude McKay, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 128-31)
Countee Cullen, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 144-9)
Paul Laurence Dunbar Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 128-31)
Phyllis Wheatley, Intro and poems (Cornerstones, 123-5);
"On Being Brought from Africa to America" (handout)


Donalson, "Overview" (Cornerstones, 199-207)
Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo 3/27 Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo
Henry Louis Gates, "The Blackness of Blackness" (Cornerstones, 881-913)
4th email micro-essay due; Discussion of issues raised in micro-essays

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Octavia Butler, Kindred

Octavia Butler, Kindred

4/17 Nella Larson, from Passing (Cornerstones, 281-92)
Itabari Njeri, "Hasbeens Who Never Were" (Cornerstones, 689-705)
Franz Fanon, from Black Skins, White Masks (on reserve)

4/19 5th email micro-essay due; Discussion of issues raised in micro-essays


Donalson, "Overview" (Cornerstones, 461-68)
August Wilson, Fences (Cornerstones, 469-518)

August Wilson, Fences (Cornerstones, 469-517)
Michael Awkward, "The Crooked and the Straight" (Cornerstones, 518-24)
Kim Pereira, from August Wilson: An African-American Odyssey (on reserve)

6th email micro-essay due; Retrospective discussion of the issues of the course


Final Paper Due

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