Department of English

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319-001 African American Literature

319-001 African American Literature:

Instructor: Roberta Maguire


Because of the African American community’s relationship to literacy—specifically that slaves were denied by law the ability to learn to read and write—use of the first person in the literature black America has produced has carried with it special significance. In this course we will focus on first-person narratives, beginning with an antebellum slave narrative or two and continuing up through contemporary work. Our goal will be to understand how the function of the first person changes over time and explore why those changes occur. This means we will consider gender, thematic shifts, and aesthetic choices. Possible texts include Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, Train Whistle Guitar by Albert Murray, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. 

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