Focuses on reading, discussion, and written analysis of African American Literature from its eighteenth-century beginnings to the modern era, emphasizing representative texts in all genres, including poetry, slave narrative, fiction, essay, and drama.
Goals, Topics, and Objectives
- Introduction to literary terms and methods of discussing literature.
- The Vernacular Tradition: spirituals; secular songs, ballads, and rhymes; gospel; folk tales; sermons; blues; jazz; and rap.
- Slave Narrative/Antebellum writing: Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Wilson.
- Reconstruction/Post-Reconstruction literature: Booker T. Washington, Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, W. E. B. DuBois, and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
- Harlem Renaissance literature: Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen.
- Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism: Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry.
- The Black Arts Movement: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, and Nikki Giovanni.
- Literature since 1970: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, Ishmael Reed, John Edgar Wideman, Alice Walker, August Wilson, Gloria Naylor, Rita Dove, and Walter Mosley.
Students should be able to accomplish the following:
- Formulate an interpretive thesis (as opposed to one which merely reports something factual about a literary text).
- Compose an essay which either
- analyzes a literary text, for example by focusing on literary elements such as theme, character, setting, point of view, plot, imagery, metaphor, symbolism, etc., or
- analyzes the characteristic themes, features, and / or techniques of a given writer's works, or
- analyzes more than one literary text by comparing and contrasting works by more than one writer of the period or genre named in the course title.
Identify some of the key literary terms essential to an introductory-level understanding of the African American vernacular and literary traditions.
Identify features in a given text that would be considered typical of the African American vernacular and literary traditions.
Evaluate a few of the key ways African American writers have employed literature in the quest for black humanity, freedom, and literacy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and for social equality, civil rights, integration, and educational / economic opportunity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Explain the crucial importance and /or distinctive achievement of major African American authors.
Identify and analyze principal works and passages reflecting some of the pivotal themes in African American literature.
Note that a grade of C- is not transferrable and is not accepted by some programs at HFC
Assessment and Requirements
Assessment may include (but need not be limited to) quizzes, class participation, essays, and exams. But assessment must include a minimum of 2,000 words of formal literary analysis.
- Students will write at least one out-of-class essay of literary analysis that is at least 1,200 words in length.
- Students will take at least one written exam which requires them to analyze literature; whether a single essay or multiple shorter responses, this expository component will count for at least half of the credit for that exam.
Students will read substantial and representative selections from the works of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines, and Walter Mosley.
Students will read a substantial and representative selection of texts in the African American literary tradition that explore many of the following themes: the quests for humanity, freedom, literacy, social integration, and civil rights; racial uplift during Jim Crow era; quest for the American Dream / economic inclusion; importance of the black extended/surrogate family; significance of domestic sphere/female bond in black women's experience; sexual exploitation and victimization; effects of migration/urbanization; resistance to black male invisibility and emasculation; effects Western aesthetic on black psyche; reversals of racist mythology.
Students will regularly engage in thoughtful discussion of the assigned readings.
Students will study (through assigned readings and / or classroom discussion) the cultural contexts from which the literature emerges.
Students will study concepts that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of African American literature, including literary elements such as characterization, plot, setting, theme, symbolism, allusion, figurative language; vernacular and literary genres such as gospel, blues, folk tales, ballads, autobiography, short story, essay, drama, novel, literary criticism, and poetic forms; and literary movements such as romanticism, realism, naturalism, modernism, and black nationalism.
Students should learn appropriate biographical information about assigned writers when such information could be helpful in understanding the literature.
Students should take quizzes on assigned readings.
Students should keep a journal in which they record their responses to assigned readings and class discussions.
Students should learn to place the major assigned writers and texts on an historical time line.
Students should satisfactorily read at least one poem or passage aloud, either in class or in the instructor's office.
Instructors should welcome and support the diverse identities, backgrounds, and academic experience of our students as essential foundations for college community.