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African American Literature and Language

African American Literature and Language

From the narratives of slavery and emancipation to the exuberant expressions of the Harlem Renaissance, from the bold statements and innovations of the Black Arts Movement to recent experiments in African American fiction, poetry and drama, the literary works and language practices of African Americans form a rich, varied, and at times, contested tradition.  The courses in this cluster will allow students to consider the continuities and ruptures in African American literary and rhetorical traditions, while gaining a broad sense of the major themes, concerns, forms, and strategies that recur among African American literary and cultural texts.

English majors taking courses within the African American Literature and Language cluster will consider how African American authors have created literary works 1) to engage social issues–such as racial, gender, and class oppression; 2) to create aesthetic or formal innovations and revisions; 3) to preserve individual and/or group history; 4) to produce a “useable” past; and 5) to imagine an alternative value/belief/cultural system. African American authorship occupies a crucial space in contemporary political, cultural, and literary negotiations in US society, and students taking courses in this cluster will have the opportunity to engage important social issues, discover significant aesthetic and cultural traditions, and explore powerful works of art.

Possible Courses for the African American Literature and Language cluster:

  • ENGL 235: African American Oral Folk Tradition
  • ENGL 431: Black American Writers
  • ENGL 461: The Vernacular Roots of African American Literature
  • ENGL 462: Reading Black, Reading Feminist
  • ENGL 463: African American Autobiography
  • ENGL 466: African American Novel I
  • ENGL 467: African American Novel II
  • ENGL 468: African American Poetry
  • ENGL 469: Slavery and the Literary Imagination


Other courses that could have an African American component, depending on how they are taught:

  • ENGL 297H: Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement
  • ENGL 400: Authors, Texts, Contexts
  • ENGL 401: Studies in Genre
  • ENGL 402: Literature and Society
  • ENGL 403: Literature and Culture
  • ENGL 404: Mapping Identity, Difference and Place
  • ENGL 487W: Senior Seminar


If the description for a course in rhetoric or literature seems to focus on African American literature, speak to your advisor to see if it can count toward the cluster.