"African American Literature has been enjoying a renaissance in quality
and quantity for the past decade or so, even vaster than the New Negro,
or Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's, spurred on to a significant extent
since 1970 by the writings of African American women such as Morrison,
Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Gloria Naylor, Jamaica Kincaid,
and Terry McMillan."
-Preface, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, xxxiii.
Major African American Authors focuses on fictional works by some of the writers who
receive less attention but whose contributions are equally crucial to understanding the development
of the African American literary tradition in the past four or five decades.
Students encountering African American writing
in the twentieth century usually use Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison,
Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and a few other fairly well known writers and works as "points of entry."
We will go beyond this narrow focus to examine some of the less frequently discussed works by writers
whose works have recieved scholarly treatment.
- Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha
- Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters
- Ernest Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying
- Paule Marshall, Praisesong for the Widow
- Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place
- Dorothy West, The Living Is Easy
This course is structured as a seminar, thus discussion will be the primary mode of conveying information
and exchanging ideas. Although I will serve as key resource for each writer and lead the discussion on Ernest
Gaines, I will assign you in teams of three to lead a 2-period seminar discussion session on a writer who will be
choses by lottery. In your role as discussion leaders, you can share content from secondary sources, use audio/video
resources, formulate questions, and do whatever else you deem appropriate to guide the class during your seminar
sessions. Any handouts you wish to be copied should be given to me 2-3 days prior to your session.
Each of the following activities will count as one third of your course grade:
More than three absences will affect your course grade. Any absence exceeding this number will lower
your grade by one half grade and will continue lowering the grade with every subsequent absence.
- Seminar Presentation
- Midterm and Quizzes
- Analytical Paper