Teaching     Texts     Course Description    Secondary Reading    Essay Topics    Last Year’s Exam





EN 3303   (full unit, 2 terms)



Tutor: Tim Armstrong


This course provides a survey of African-American literature in relation to the troubled history of race in America. It begins with the first writings of black Americans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – mainly slave narratives – and charts the emergence of more literary forms of writing, culminating in the explosion of activity in Harlem in the 1920s, an important moment in Modernism. In the period which follows we examine the political novel in the wake of Richard Wright’s Native Son; modernist and postmodernist writings; writings on black history and historiography; and the prominence of recent black women writers.


The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the context of African-American culture, including oral culture, the blues, and folklore, and the debates which surround these forms; it addresses notions of race, dislocation (the Middle Passage), religion, and other topics in African-American history; as well as gender, class and other issues. It also considers the signifying practices and commonplaces of the tradition: call-and-response, ‘signifying,’ the divided self, ‘passing’, etc.


Teaching and Attendance


The course is taught by a weekly two-hour seminar, with eight hours a week private study and preparation expected.  In common with other courses, there is a 70% attendance threshold, which means that if you miss more that three seminars a term without good reason (e.g. illness), you may not be allowed to sit the exams and can, as a consequence, fail the course. 


Course Work


Required reading.   The reading for each seminar, which may comprise a novel, essay, poetry or other kinds of writing, is detailed in the Course Description below.  Many of the texts studied are included in the set text, the  Norton Anthology of African American Literature, which you should buy as soon as possible.


Additional Reading.    Suggestions for additional reading are detailed below. Although the main task is the primary reading, secondary material will be needed for presentations and essays. When writing essays, you are also advised to read more widely in the primary texts in the Norton Anthology, which has a wealth of material which can be incorporated.


Course Essay.  There are two non-assessed essays of 2,500 words, one in each term. You will also be asked to make a presentation at some point in the term, perhaps paired with another student.  The deadline for the non-assessed essay will be set in class. It will be returned to you with feedback within two weeks.  Late work will be read to ensure that it is of appropriate quality, but it may not receive a mark or feedback.




The course will be examined by two essays totaling 7-8,000 words, which may be on linked subjects, submitted by the first day of Term 3.  Late essays are subject to penalties (see department guide).




If there are any issues you need to discuss during the course, please see Tim Armstrong, Room 203 (email: t.armstrong@rhul.ac.uk).  The usual anonymous questionnaire will be distributed to collect your comments.



Primary Texts


Because of problems of availability, this is a ‘long’ list: it includes a few texts which may not be taught or which may have gone out of print.  NB. If Dillons do not stock a book, you can usually get it from Amazon (the UK site is quicker). Students are free to use any of the texts listed, or any other relevant texts. 


It is recommended that you read one or two of the longer novels studied later in the course (Native Son, Another Country, Invisible Man, Beloved) over the Summer before the course.


The set text is the Norton Anthology of African American Literature (you should buy this as soon as possible).  It is expensive, but contains around half the texts studied (marked N below). In addition, it will enable you to read widely in the tradition, and has many essays  which we will refer to.  It includes a CD with spirituals, blues, work-songs and speeches.    Topics covered may include:


·       Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) (sections from Norton only)  N  [full edn. is 808.89896 BL]; The Confessions of Nat Turner (handout)

·       Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1845) N

·       Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861, Harvard) [326.0973 JAC]

·       African-American poetry of the nineteenth century (N + handout)

·       Charles Chestnutt and others, trickster stories (N + handout); George Herriman, Krazy Kat cartoons (handout)

·       DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903) N; songs of the slaves: spirituals and blues N

·       James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912, Penguin) N

·       Poets and critics of the Harlem Renaissance N

·       Jean Toomer, Cane (1923, Norton)  N

·       Nella Larsen, Passing (1929, Serpent’s Tail)

·       Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937, Virago)  [825 HUR]

·       Richard Wright, Native Son (1940, Harper Collins or Picador)   [815 WRI]

·       Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go (1945, Serpent’s Tail)

·       Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952, Penguin) [815 ELL]

·       James Baldwin, Another Country (1962, various edns.)  [815 BAL]

·       Black Arts: Gwendolen Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, poems & play  N

·       Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972, Allison & Busby, if in print)  [815 REE]

·       Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1983, Women’s Press)   [815 WAL]

·       Toni Morrison, Beloved (1985, Picador)  [815 MOR]

·       Gloria Naylor, Mama Day or Linden Hills (1985, Methuen), depending of what is in print [815 NAY]

·       Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990, Picador) 

·       Octavia Butler, Dawn 


Music:   As a minimum, you should listen to the disc which comes with the Norton Anthology, which offers a selection from the tradition (work-songs, Spirituals, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Rap, speeches and toasts).  Any other music from the tradition will help you, particularly music referred to in texts (e.g. in Another Country recordings of Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson referenced in the text).


Poetry recordings:  see the selection at:  http://factoryschool.org/content/sounds/havanaglen.html

(Hughes, Cullen, Brown, Jordan, Sanchez and others)


Some Films which you might like to refer to:

Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1988).  Controversial ‘outing’ of the poet.

Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)   Famous melodrama on ‘passing’, a remake of a 1934 John Stahl film.

Native Son  (Chenal, 1951), with an improbably old Wright in the lead role. Hard to find.

The Color Purple (Speilberg, 1985).  How close to the novel is it, in its sentimentality?

Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1993).  Set in the Sea Islands at the turn of the century, on the eve of a Northern Migration: most useful if we do Naylor’s Mama Day.



Preliminary Reading: Secondary Texts


These are general texts which provide useful preparation for classes: a more comprehensive reading list aimed at providing for specific essay topics is appended below.


Andrews, W. L., et al. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997) [     ]

Awkward, Michael, Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Revision and  the Afro-American Women Novelists (1989)   [825.399289 AWK] 

Baker, Houston, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (1987)  [815.9 BAK]

Baker, Houston, Blues, Ideology and Afro-American Literature (1984)  [810.9352 BAK]

Braxton, J., ed., Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance (1990)  [810.99287 WIL]

Callahan, J., In the Afro-American Grain (1988) [815.3 CAL]

Carby, Hazel, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (198 )  [815.33 CAR]

Cook, M., Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century (1984)  [815.9896 COO]

Dickson, Bruce, Black American Writing from the Nadir: The Evolution of a Literary Tradition 1877-1915 (1989)

Douglas, Ann, Terrible Honesty: Mongerel Manhattan in the Twenties (1995)

Gates, Henry Louis, The Signifying Monkey (1988)  [810.9 GAT]

Hutchinson, George, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White (1995) [     ]

Mitchell, Angelyn, ed., Within the Circle: An Anthology of African-American Literary Criticism From the Harlem Renaissance to the Present (1994)  [810.9352 WIT]

Sudquist, Eric J., To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (1993) [825.9896 SUN]

Steptoe, Robert, From Behind the Veil: A Study of African-American Narrative (1979) [810.9352 STE]

Willis, Susan, Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience (1987) [815.399278 WIL]


Some web material is listed on my links page.


About the remainder of this booklet


In what follows you will find


·       a week-by-week course description, including relevant secondary reading.

·       a list of topics which you might consider each week (students giving presentations are encouraged to add others).

·       a more comprehensive list of further reading which will useful for essays. You are encouraged to find other materials as well, and especially to use the resources of the Senate House (University of London) Library, which has very strong holdings on American Literature (5th floor, south end).

·       a list of non-assessed essay questions.

·       advice on seminar presentations

·       a reproduction of assessed essay questions from the last year the course ran.



Teaching     Texts     Course Description    Secondary Reading    Essay Topics    Last Year’s Exam




N = the Norton Anthology of African American Literature




    TERM 1 : Beginnings to the Harlem Renaissance




Week 1    Introduction; Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) (sections from Norton)  N  [full edn., ed.Vincent Carretta, is in the library at 808.89896 BL]



·         the Middle Passage

·         cultural encounter and assimilation

·         oral vs. written culture

·         style: first and third person voice.


Further reading: Gates on the ‘trope of the talking book’, in The Signifying Monkey.


Week 2    Black Resistance: The Confessions of Nat Turner (1832, short handout); Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1845) N ; George Boyer Vashon, ‘Vincent Ogé’ (poem, available here)



·         autobiography

·         the paratexts (introductions

·         the use of violence

·         the ‘value’ of a person

·         religion (Christianity)

·         black cultural forms: magic, music

·         oral vs. written (literacy, rhetoric)


Further reading:   Sundquist, Eric, ed. Frederick Douglass: New Literary & Historical Essays (1990).


Week 3   Women and Slavery:  Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861, Norton) [326.0973 JAC]; short excerpts from Contending Forces N; poems by Harper  N.



·         masculine vs. feminine experience of slavery

·         domestic slaves vs. field hands

·         sexuality and gentility

·         colour distinctions

·         generic issues: romance, gothic


Further reading:  Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark.

Week 4    Oral forms and their literary versions: African tales vs. Brer Rabbit N; Charles Chestnutt, trickster stories (N + handout) – this is the main text for discussion; toasts (‘Titanic Toast’, ‘Stagolee’ etc. N); George Herriman, Krazy Kat cartoons (handout)



·         problems of recording ‘oral’ forms

·         African ‘survivals’

·         Chestnutt and the trickster: storytelling as resistance

·         Krazy Kat as modernist trickster?


Further reading:  Eric Sundquist, To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (1993).


Week 5    James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912, N)


·         the entry into racial experience

·         ‘Passing’ as culture

·         ‘Passing’ and race

·         music: issues of cultural interchange and commodification


Further reading:   E. K. Ginsberg, ed., Passing and Fictions of Identity (1996).


Reading week:   Possible Film Screening and discussion: eg. Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life


Week 6    W. E. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), selected chapters.  N.

Debates on the politics of black art:   (1) DuBois v. Locke;   (2) Hughes v. Schyler  N.



·         Double Consciousness

·         the South

·         African-American culture and its political status

·         radicalism, separatism, assimilation


Further reading: Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993).


Week 7    Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)  N



·         modernist form and the narrator

·         distance and engagement

·         women and sexuality

·         the South vs. North (rural vs. urban)


Further reading:  Laura Doyle, Bordering on the Body: The Racial Matrix of Modern Fiction (1994)


Week 8    Music and poetry: worksongs, spirituals and blues N; poems by Dunbar, McKay, Cullen, Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown. N   You should also listen to any other recordings you can get hold of,  eg. Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters.




·       performance vs. text; folk vs. literary versions

·       syncopation and the beat

·       formalism and black tradition


Further reading:    Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature (1984). 


Week 9    Nella Larsen, Passing (1929), in Quicksand and Passing (Serpent’s Tail)



·         Passing and women

·         class in Harlem

·         sexuality

·         the indeterminate ending

·         passing and plagiarism


Further reading:    E. K. Ginsberg, ed., Passing and Fictions of Identity (1996).


Week 10    Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937, Virago)  [825 HUR]. Also read her essay ‘Characteristics of Negro Expression’, N and look briefly at the portrait of her in Wallace Thurman’s novel Infants of the Spring, N



·         feminine Bildungsroman

·         Eatonsville – a separate community

·         folk-law (the mule etc.) and storytelling

·         the narrative frame and free indirect discourse (Gates)


Further reading:  Alice Walker, ‘In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens’ (N); Henry Louis Gates, The Signifying Monkey




   TERM 2: Wright and after


Monday:   First assessed essay due


Week 1    Richard Wright, Native Son (1940, Harper Collins or Picador)   [815 WRI] .  Any overspill from this week will be included in Week 2.   Discussion in week 1 will center on Parts I and II of the novel



·       Status of the text 

·       Bigger - Wright’s ‘gamble’ with white stereotypes

·       the Forensic structure and the use of Max

·       Third person narrator/Free indirect discourse

·       Violence

·       Gender – Bessie, Mary, Mrs Thomas

·       Chicago and urban space


Further reading:  handout from J-P Sartre, The Literature of Commitment


Week 2    Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go (1945, Serpent’s Tail)



·       the internal discussion of Wright’s novel

·       wartime prosperity and westward shifts

·       pressure and fury. 

·       class, work, gender

·       the depiction of ‘white’


Further reading:    Richard Wright, ‘Blueprint for Negro Writing’ (N)


Week 3    Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952, Penguin) [815 ELL] 



·       modernist form

·       race and invisibility

·       the politics of going underground: re-writing the protest tradition

·       language and tricksters

·       depiction of African-American history  (Tuskagee, CP and Harlem Renaissance, Garvey etc.)


Further reading:  Ellison, ‘The World and the Jug’ and Baldwin’s essay ‘Everyone’s Protest Novel’, both N


Week 4    Invisible Man continued.


Some more topics attached to particular episodes include:

·       the opening: music and subversion; electricity

·       incest and the trickster (Trueblood and Norton)

·       racial ideology in the paint factory

·       folk culture and the hospital

·       ‘I yam what I yam’ : Southern ethnic identity

·       cyclops/glass eye = communism

·       Brother Tod: oratory and black leadership

·       Tarp’s chain, Reinhardt and other figures


Further reading:  Ralph Ellison, ‘The World and the Jug’, N; Irving Howe, ‘Black Boys and Native Sons’ (1963), excerpts at http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/howe-blackboys.html


Week 5    James Baldwin, Another Country (1962, various edns.)  [815 BAL].


·       the novel’s construction 

·       mourning the young black male

·       inter-raciality and inter-corporeality

·       Homosexuality and its role; the sex scenes

·       New York  v. Europe

·       music in the text: Rufus, Ida, be-bop, Mahalia Jackson


Further reading:   Baldwin, ‘The Fire Next Time’ (1963)


Week 6       Reading Week:   screening of Suture.  


Week 7    Black Arts Movement:   Gwendolen Brooks, poems (N); Amiri Baraka, poems & his short play Dutchman (N) ; Maulana Karenga, essay (N).  The selections from Brooks and Baraka include elegies for Malcolm X: please also read and compare the other poems on him in the Norton by Robert Hayden and Haki Madhubuti. 



·         Black Arts and the abandonment of the protest tradition

·         Community aethetics

·         Brooks: from formalism and irony to politicization and voice

·         Baraka: from ‘Beat’ to radical

·         Violence and racial difference

·         Malcolm X: the lost leader


Further Reading:   Larry Neal, ‘The Black Arts Movement’ (1968), N

Week 8    Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1983, various edns.) [815 WAL].



·       why the epistolary novel?

·       structure (the separation of the sisters etc.)

·       Africa

·       black feminism and narratives of personal growth

·       sexuality, lesbianism

·       melodrama:  tears and the happy ending


Further reading: Walker’s essay on ‘Womanist writing’ N and June Jordan’s essay on the novel (handout)


Week 9     Toni Morrison, Beloved (1985, Picador)   [815 MOR]



·         the history of slavery in the novel

·         violence/sacrifice

·         gendered stories

·         class and community

·         ghosts

·         the Middle Passage, trauma and memory


Further reading: Peter Nicolls, chapter on Beloved in S. Vice, ed. Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (1995).


Week 10   Science Fiction:   Octavia Butler, Dawn  (vol. 1 of the trilogy Lilith’s Brood [formerly known as the Xenogenesis  trilogy])



·         race and the ‘alien’

·         gender and race

·         the cyborg body

·         afrofuturism


Further reading:  Damien Broderick, Reading By Startlight: Postmodern Science Fiction (1995)


Week 11    Post-race?  Suture (film), Dr. Scott McGehee and David Siegel (1993)





Teaching     Texts     Course Description    Secondary Reading    Essay Topics    Last Year’s Exam


   Secondary Reading : A Guide



Your first point of reference will often be the excellent introductory notes and section essays in the Norton Anthology.  In most cases, the Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997) also has entries on authors and book, and on cultural and historical issues we will touch on (on ‘Race’, ‘Violence’, ‘Passing’, ‘Miscegenation’, ‘Jim Crow’, ‘Names and Naming’, ‘Gender’, Gay & Lesbian writing, etc.). You may also find it useful to look at general accounts of black culture and consciousness (Genovese, Levine, Patterson, etc.) – doing so will give you more of a historical sense, and looking at historical studies will also help you avoid unsupported historical generalization (eg. students often write that slaves were not allowed to learn to read and that teaching them was illegal: this is only true of certain States and certain periods. Likewise definitions of what a ‘black’ person was varied from state to state, with the ‘one drop’ rule being more notional than real; and later ‘Jim Crow’ laws were also variable).


Full details of texts referred to below can be found in the bibliographies which follow (divided into pre- and post-1940).  In all cases, you will be able to find more on the texts studied via a search in the MLA Bilbliography (available in the library and on the intranet). Some of these books are not in the College Library: the London University (Senate House) library in central London has better American resources than the College (especially journals), and it is strongly advised that you use it for this course. If you are not a member, see the help desk at the College library about how to join.   



On Equiano,  Vincent Caretta’s recent book, Equiano the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (2005) is now the first port of call. Paul Edward’s introduction to his (abridged) edition of the Interesting Narrative is useful, as is that in the Penguin edition edited by Caretta.. Gates discusses the ‘trope of the talking book’ in The Signifying Monkey. For other early texts see Potkay & Burr, eds., Black Atlantic Writers of the 18th Century. On the Middle Passage see Nathan Huggins, Black Odyssey. Equiano is discussed in a variety of other texts: for the English context, see Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984). 


On Slave Narratives and Douglass: they are discussed in most of the surveys of black literature: see also Andrews, Bloom, Dickinson, Gates (The Slave’s Narrative), Gilroy, Kawash, Plasa, Sundquist; and articles by Cassuto, Gibson, Morgan, Mitchell, Sale, among others. 


Harriet Jacobs   Essays by Berlant, Berliani, Kaplan, Morgan, Randle, Smith and Warhol; and in Gates (ed.)., Reading Black, Reading Feminist; Morrison’s Playing in the Dark; Carby’s Reconstructing Womanhood; Ernest’s  Resistance and Reformation. Jean Fagin Yellin’s introduction to the Harvard edition of Incidents is useful; and the new Norton Critical Edition, ed. Nellie McKay, excerpts a number of good essays.  The Schomberg/Oxford library has other C19 narratives by women, and there are later ones (collected in the 1930s) at the ‘American Memory’ (Library of Congress) WPA website. You might also consider the text in relation to the sentimental novel and the ‘tragic mulatto’ tradition. 


Poetry of the Nineteenth-Century    See the introduction to Joan R. Sherman, ed., Afro-American Poetry of the Nineteenth-Century (1992), and D. Bruce Dickson, Black Writing from the Nadir (borrowable from me if you can’t find them); also Ernest’s Resistance and Reformation. You could also consider more primary reading in the Norton Anthology and elsewhere (try the Chadwick-Healey WWW databases, for which the Library has a site license, for more poetry - access via Library’s homepage). On the Spirituals, start with Du Bois, but see also White.


On the trickster-figure, see Gates, The Signifying Monkey; on Chestnutt, Wideman essay in Davis & Gates (ed), The Slave’s Narrative; Sundquist, To Awake the Nations, ch.4; article by Sale. On ‘puttin’ on the ole massa’ tactics, see Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness. There is a further selection of ‘Old John and the Massa’ stories in The Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol. I.  The cartoons by Herriman are from The Comic Art of George Herriman, which has a good bibliographical introduction. There is a brief discussion of Herriman in Ronald Paulson’s Figure and Abstraction in Contemporary Painting (1990), and some Krazy Kat netsites (try www.krazy.com).


On DuBois, Shamoon Zamir’s Du Bois  and David Levering Lewis’s comprehensive biography.

Chapters on DuBois in Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic and Sundquist, To Awake the Nations, and in Conn, The Divided Mind and Wald’s Constituting America. The Oxford W. E. Du Bois Reader has more primary texts. Most of the surveys (Cooke etc) discuss him.


James Weldon Johnson is also discussed in most surveys of African-American literature (eg. Ikonne, Cooke), though there is surprisingly little good writing on the Autobiobraphy in periodicals  See article by Kawash in Ginsberg (ed), Passing & Fictions of Identity; recent articles by Goellnicht, Pfeiffer, Sheehy, and Japtok.    


On the Harlem Renaissance generally, see George Hutchinson’s ground-breaking The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, which demolishes many of the myths of the period; de Jongh’s Vicious Modernism: Black Harlem and the Literary Imagination, 1990; and Houston Baker’s Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance Nathan Huggins’s Harlem Renaissance now seems dated and rather harsh. Ann Douglas’s Terrible Honesty is a lively multi-racial account of the decade; and Matthew Guteri’s The Color of Race in America looks at the problems of the color-line (on mixed-race issues, see also Sollers, Neither Black Nor White Yet Both). The Harlem Renaissance Re-examined, ed. Kramer, is not readily available. On the status of folk culture, see Favor, Authentic Blackness.


There is also some good recent work on Gay Harlem (ie. Hughes, Cullen, Locke, McKay, Nugent, Thurman and others): see Nelson (ed) Critical Essays, Woods, A History of Gay Literature; George Chauncey’s Gay New York; and articles by Avi-Ram, Garber, Reimonenq. General studies of gay literature like Mark Lilley’s Gay Men’s Literature in the Twentieth Century also have some material. There is less on lesbian writers apart from work on Passing (see below): Hull has some discussion of the issue.


On the turn to politics in the thirties, see Smedhurst, The New Red Negro; Maxwell, New Negro, Old Left; and Young, Black Writers of the Thirties; and articles by Singh and (on Hughes) Dawahare; see also Hughes, Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings.


On Toomer, see Therman B. O’Daniel, ed., Jean Toomer: A Critical Evaluation [if available]; Gates, Figures in Black; Favor, Authentic Blackness; Morrison, Playing in the Dark; Michael North’s The Dialect of Modernism and Doyle’s Bordering on the Body, ch.4; Barbara Bowen’s essay in Gates, ed., Black Literature and Literary Theory; Charles Larson, Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen; essays by Webb and Foley. There are also essays in Sollers & Diedrich, The Black Colombiad.


On the Blues, see Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature and the works of Paul Oliver and Lawrence Levine; Anderson’s Deep River is also useful on the Harlem Renaissance and music. Ann Douglas, Terrible Honesty, is also good on Harlem Renaissance music-making and particularly on women blues-singers. The primary text to begin with is The Souls of Black Folk; for conflicting views on high/low art see the debate between Ralph Ellison in Shadow and Act and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka in Blues People [excerpt in The Baraka Reader], later essays by Baldwin in various places; and the perceptive discussion of music in Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic. There is a huge range of other texts on the Blues, of course, and on its influences (eg. on Robert Johnson, Griel Marcus’s Mystery Train). On Jazz, see articles by Heble, Rice and others; Adorno’s writings on Jazz might also provide ideas (or ideas to attack!).


Harlem Renaissance Poetry   On Langston Hughes, there is a useful collection edited by Harold Bloom, as well as a lot of journal literature; and the library video collection includes Issac Julien’s film pursuing Hughes’s context and (suppressed?) homosexuality, Looking for Langston. [NB. This was quite hard to find in the catalogue, but it is there!]. On Cullen, see Houston Baker, Afro-American Poetics and the Kramer and Shiver collections; articles by Avi-Ram and Reimonenq. For more examples of women’s poetry see Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, ed. Maureen Honey. See also Gloria Hull’s Color, Sex and Poetry. On Brown see Smethurst, The New Red Negro (also has Hughes material) and Gabbin, Sterling A. Brown.


Nella Larsen     See Deborah McDowell’s excellent introduction to her U.S. edition of Quicksand and Passing (1986); Douglas, Terrible Honesty; Larson, Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen; Ammons, Conflicting Stories; Butler, Bodies that Matter; Wald, Crossing the Line, Ginsberg ed., Passing and Fictions of Identity; Tate, Psychoanalysis and Black Novels;  and articles by Condé, Rhodes, duCille (also her book), Haviland, Madigan, Hostetler, Sheehy, Sullivan, Youman, Wall; and others in collections edited by Kramer,  Shivers, and Weixlemann.


There is a good deal of writing in Zora Neale Hurston, in the wake of Alice Walker’s ‘In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.’ One good collection is New Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God, ed. M. Awkward, which has a good bibliography; also the collection edited by Cronin, and Edwards’s book.Race and Gender. See also:  Gates, The Signifying Monkey, Robert Hemmenway’s Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, and the section in Gambrell, Women Intellectuals You could also look at Hurston’s other writing, and in particular her ethnographic (folklore) writings in Mules and Men, completed just before she wrote Their Eyes. On language, see Muferene et al., African-American English.


On  Richard Wright, there is a huge corpus: famous responses by Baldwin (‘Everyone’s Protest Novel’,  in Mitchell, ed.; and ‘Many Thousand’s Gone’, in Gross and Hardy, eds.); contemporary essays by Jean-Paul Sartre and Irving Howe (Howe attacked Ellison using Wright as his positive counter-example); good discussions by Fishburn, Kostelanitz , Kinnamon, Watts. There are various biograpies by Fabre and others. Useful collections are: Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Rampersand; Richard Wright: Critical Perspectives, ed. Gates & Appiah; New Essays on Native Son, ed. Kinnamon (this has a good bibliography); Richard Wright’s Native Son, ed. Bloom (esp. Johnson essay); Bigger Thomas, ed. Bloom; Critical Essays on Richard Wright, ed. Hakutani (1982); Twentieth Century Interpretations of Native Son, ed. Baker (1972); discussions in Bell, Cooke; and articles by Bryant, Gallagher, Walls, JanMohamed, Butler, among others. 


Chester Himes criticism, such as it is, often focuses on his detective novels. There is a recent life by James Sallis, Chester Himes: A Life; books by Milliken and Skinner; articles by Lee and (tangentially) Boris and Mullen on WWII.


Ralph Ellison    Gates, The Signifying Monkey; Schor, Visible Ellison; Watts, Heroism and the Black Intellectual (on the Ellison-Wright debate); Robert O’Meally, ed. New Essays on Invisible Man; Kimberley Benson, ed., Speaking for You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison; Susan Parr and Pancho Savery, eds., Approaches in Teaching Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Butler, The Critical Response.  Also good is Doyle’s Bordering on the Body, ch.6.  You should also read Ellison’s brilliant essays, particularly those collected in Shadow and Act.  For an example of relations between the Communist Party and the NAACP leadership, see Walter White, ‘The Negro and the Communist’ (1931), in Gerald Early, ed., Speech and Power, vol.1.


On James Baldwin, there are number of lively biographies and commemorative volumes, by David Leeming, Trudier Harris, Horace Porter and others. Volumes by Sylvander, Macebuh; collections by Kinnamon, Standley, and (most recent) Miller. Discussions in Bell, Cooke.  Recent articles by Cohen, France, Rowden are worth looking at; also Feldman on sexual politics (in Miller, ed.).


On Gwendolyn Brooks, see the biography by George Kent (1989); collection ed. Mootry & Smith; Shaw; Melhem; the chapter in Erkkila, and in Evans (ed); and articles by Taylor & Horvath.  On Baraka and the Black Arts Movement, see The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader, ed. William J. Harris (1991); the entry for ‘The Black Arts Poets’ in The Colombia History of American Poetry, ed. J. Parini (1993); Larry Neale’s ‘The Black Arts Movement’ and other related essays in Within the Circle, ed. Mitchell and the article in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature; A. L. Nielsen, Black Chant; Olaniyan, Scars of Conquest; Baker, Afro-American Poetics;  and articles by Early, Harney, Heble. Deburg’s Modern Black Nationalism has excellent background material. You could also look at other plays by Baraka (available in New Black Playwrights, Four Black Revolutionary Plays and elsewhere).


There is a lot on Alice Walker: see discussions in Awkward, Willis, Lauret, Braxton (ed); articles by Abbandonato, Berlant, Christian, Early, Harris, Hite, hooks, Light, McDowell, Proudfit, Naylor, Walker, and Waters; as well as June Jordan’s essay, considered in class; and various black feminist collections. You should also look at Walker’s own ‘Womanist’ critical and political writings (some in Norton). On the language issue, see also African-American English, ed. Muferene et al.


The Toni Morrison bibliography is huge (the MLA Bibliography CD-Rom lists over 200 ‘hits’ on Beloved alone). Good early work includes the discussions in Willis, Specifying (1987) [also in Black American Literature Forum 16 (1982): 34-4]; Steptoe;  Gates, The Signifying Monkey (1988); Awkward, Inspiring Influences (1989); Braxton,  Wild Women in the Whirlwind (1990); Gilroy, The Black Atlantic (1993) – good on Beloved. As well as recent books by Peach, Matus (recommended), Furman, and others, collections edited by Peterson, Plaza (recommended), Middleton, and Bloom. There was a mfs (Modern Fiction Studies), 39, 3-4 (1993), double issue on Toni Morrison; recent articles by Wyatt, Hamilton, Rody, Armstrong, Robbons, & many others. Use the MLA (available online) for specific topics. On the issue of memory, see King, Nicholls, Mitchell among many others.


On Butler, see Broderick, Donawerth; articles by Mehaffy, Mitchell. Most overviws of Science Fiction have a short section on her; and tere are interviews with Butler also available (eg. in Callaloo, 20.1 (1997),  47-66, on JSTOR). You might also look at work on the cybiorg and gender: Anne Balsamo, Technologies of the Gedered Body: Reading Cyborg Women (1996); and Kirkup, Gill et al (eds), The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader (2000)


On Gloria Naylor [if taught this year], see her own piece ‘Love and Sex in the Afro American Novel’, The Yale Review, 78:1 (1989), 19-31; and ‘A Conversation: Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison’, in G.D. Taylor (ed. & intro.), Conversations with Toni Morrison, 1994, pp.188-217. On Mama Day (1988) see books by Whitt, Gates and Appiah (eds.), Felton and Lauris (eds.), and Showalter; and articles by Donlon, Erikson, Kubitschek, Storhoff, Puhr, Christol, Korenman, Tucker, Warren, Wall, Traub, Mesienhelder.  Also William S. McFeely, Sapelo’s People, a historical study of one of the Sea Islands where the descendents of an Arabic-speaking slave live.   On Linden Hills (1985) the books above plus articles by Gates (‘Significant Others’), Homans, Mishkin, Sandiford, Toombs, Ward.



Bibliography 1 :  Some General Historical and Cultural Criticism


     Christian, B.             Black Feminist Criticism, 1986.

     Foner, E. and           The Readers Companion to American History, 1991. Succinct

         J Garraty, eds.      articles on historical background: see eg. on Slavery, Emancipation

                                                            Proclamation, Reconstruction, Lynching, KKK, NAACP, etc.

 *  Gates, H.                             The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism, 1988. Influential post-structuralist discussion of signifying practices.

     Gates, H.                             Figures in Black: Words, Signs, & the `Racial’ Self, 1989.

 *  Genovese, E.            Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, 1974. 

     Gilroy, P.                             The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, 1993.

     Frankenberg, R. ed.   Displacing Whiteness: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism, 1997.

     Levine, L.                            Black Culture and Black Consciousness, 1977.  Pioneering study.

     Mitchell, A. ed.        Within the Circle: An Anthology of African-American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present, 1994. Excellent collection with many foundational essays of the Harlem Renaissance, plus later essays.

     Morgan, K. ed.         Slavery in America: A Reader and Guide, 2005.

     Morrison, T.                         Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, 1992. 

     Patterson, O.                        Slavery and Social Death, 1982.

     Patterson, O.                        Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries, 1998.

     Wonham, W. B.       Criticism and the Color Line: Desegregating American Literary Studies, 1996.



Bibliography 2 : Literature to 1940


The list below indicates some available secondary reading, but you should always consider primary reading outside the set list:  Aptheker (below) provides essays written in the period, for example; an essay on Hurston might refer to her autobiography or enthnographic writings, etc.  Askerisked texts * are ones that have been particularly influential, or which provide a collection of materials or useful surveys.


     Ammons, E.             Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, 1992.  See on Larsen.

     Anderson, P.            Deep River: Music and Memory in Harlem Renaissance Thought, 2001. 

  * Andrews, W. L.       The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 1997.

         et al (eds)

     Andrews, W.L., ed.  African American Autobiography: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1994.

  * Aptheker, H. ed        A Documentary History of the Negro People of the United States. Vol. 3, 1910-32 (1973) reprints pieces on race and writing by Hughes, Johnson, Faucet, Toomer and many others, as well as giving an excellent general sense of the period. 

     Avi-Ram, A.            ‘The Unreadable Black Body: “Conventional” Poetic Form in the Harlem Renaissance’, Genders 7 (1990), 32-46.

     Awkward, M.          Inspiring Influences: Tradition, Revision & Afro-American Women Novelists, 1989.

     Awkward, M. ed.     New Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God, 198 .

     Baker, H.                 Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, 1987.

  * Baker, H.                 Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature, 1984. 

     Baker, H.                 Afro-American Poetics, 1988.

     Boon & Cadden, eds. Engendering Men (1992). Article on Cullen and the sonnet.

     Baker, H.                 Afro-American Poetics: Revisions of Harlem & the Black Aesthetic, 1988.

  * Bell, B.                    The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, 1987.

     Berlant, S.                ‘The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Anita Hill,’ American Literature 65 (1993).

     Bloom, H. ed.           Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, 1988.

     Bloom, H. ed.           Modern Critical Interpretations: `Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ 198 . 

     Bloom, H. ed.           Langston Hughes.

     Bruce, D.                 Black American Writing from the Nadir: The Evolution of a Literary Tradition 1877-1915, 1989

     Butler, J.                  Bodies that Matter (1994). Influential chapter on Nella Larsen (also available in E. Abel et al (eds), Female Subjects in Black and White: Race, Psychoanalysis, Feminism).

     Butler, R.J. ed.         The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison, 2000.

  * Carby, H.                 Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist, 1987. 

     Caretta, V.               ‘Property of Author: Olaudah Equiano’s Place in the History of the Book’, in Caretta & Goulds, eds., Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, 2001.

     Cassuto, L.              ‘Frederick Douglass and the Work of Freedom: Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic in the Fugitive Slave Narrative’, Prospects 21 (1996): 229-59.

     Conn, P.                  The Divided Mind:Ideology & Imagination in America, 1898-1917,1983.DuBois.

  * Cooke, M.                Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century: The Achievement of Intimacy, 1984.

     Christian, B.             Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976, 1980.

     Cronin, G.L. ed.       Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston, 1998.

     Cruse, H.                 The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967.

     Dawahare, A.          ‘Langston Hughes’s Radical Poetry and the “End of Race”’, MELUS 23:3 (1998).

  * Davis, C.T.              The Slave’s Narrative, 1985.  Good essays by a variety of contributors.

        & H.L. Gates, eds.    

     Davis, T. M.            Nella Larsen, Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance: A Woman’s Life Unveiled (1994)   

     Dickinson D. B.       Black Writing from the Nadir, 199*. Douglass and others.

     Douglas, A.              Terrible Honesty: Mongerel Manhattan in the Twenties, 1995. Fascinating cultural history - see on the Harlem Renaissance generally.

     Doriani, B.               ‘Black Womanhood in 19th Century America: Subversion and Self-Construction on Two Women’s Autobiographies,’ American Quarterly 43:2 (1991). On Jacobs.

     Doyle, L.                 Bordering on the Body: The Racial Matrix of Modern Fiction, 1994. Toomer.

     duCille, A.                ‘Blue Notes on Black Sexuality: Sex and the Texts of Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen’, Journal of the History of Sexuality  3:3 (1993), 418-44.

     duCille, A.                The Coupling Convention: Sex, Text and Tradition in Black Women’s Fiction, 1993.

     Du Bois, W. E.         The Oxford W. E. Du Bois Reader, ed. E. Sundquist, 1996.

     Early, G., ed.            Speech and Power: The Afro-American Essay and its Cultural Context from Polemics to the Pulpit, 2 vols., 1992.

     Edwards, S.             Race and Gender in the Work of Zora Neale Hurston, 1999.

     Ernest, J.                 Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature, 1995.

     Evans, M. ed.           Black Women Writers, 1984.  

     Favor, J M               Authentic Blackness: The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance, 1999.

     Foley, B.                  ‘”In the Land of Cotton”: Economics and Violence in Jean Toomer’s Cane’, African-American Review 32:2 (1998), 181-98.

     Gabbin, J.V.              Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (1985)

     Gambrell, A.            Women Intellectuals, Modernism and Difference, 1997 (Hurston)

     Garber, E.                ‘A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem’, in  Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. M B Duberman, M Vicinus & G Chauncey, 1991.

  * Gates, H.L.              The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism, 1988. Influential post-structuralist discussion of signifying practices.

  * Gates, H.L.              Figures in Black: Words, Signs, & the `Racial’ Self, 1989.

  * Gates, H.L. ed.         Black Literature and Literary Theory, 1984. 

     Gates, H.L. ed.        Race’, Writing and Difference, 1986.

     Gates, H.L. ed.        Reading Black, Reading Feminist, 1990. Essays on Jacobs and others.

     Gibson, D.B.            ‘Reconciling Public and Private in Frederic Douglass’s Narrative’, American Literature 57 (1985): 549-69.

  * Gilroy, P.                  The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, 1993. DuBois and others.

  * Ginsberg,  E.K., ed.  Passing and Fictions of Identity, 1996.

     Goellnicht, D C         ‘Passing as Autobiography: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man’, African-American Review 30:1 (1996), 17-33.

     Guteri, M. P.            The Color of Race in America 1900-1940 (2001)

     Harris, T.                 Black Women in the Fiction of James Baldwin, 1985.

     Haviland, B.             ‘Passing from Paranoia to Plagiarism: The Abject Authority of Nella Larsen’, mfs (Modern Fiction Studies) 43 (1997):

     Hemmenway, R.      Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, 1977.

     hooks, bell.                           Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, 1992.

     hooks, bell                ‘Representing Whiteness and the Black Imagination,’ in Cultural Studies, ed. L. Grossberg et al., 1992, 338-346.

     Hostetler, A.            ‘The Aesthetics of Race and Gender in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand’. PMLA 105:1 (1990), 35-46.

     Huggins, N.I.           Harlem Renaissance, 1971.  Now seems rather harsh.

     Huggins,N.I.            Black Odyssey: The Afro-American Ordeal in Slavery, 1977. [Context]

     Hughes, L.               Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings, ed. F. Berry (1973)

     Humm, M.               Border Traffic, 1991 (chapt. on Hurston).  

     Humphries, J. ed      Southern Literature and Literary Theory, 1990. Essays on Chestnutt, Hurston.

     Hull, G.                    Color, Sex and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, 1987.

  * Hutchinson, G.          The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, 1995.

     Ikonne, C.                From Du Bois to Van Vechten: The Early Negro Literature 1903-1926, 1981.

     Japtok, M.                ‘Between “Race” as Construct and “Race” as Essence: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man’, Southern Literary Journal 28:2 (1996): 32-47.

     Jongh, J. de              Vicious Modernism: Black Harlem and the Literary Imagination, 1990.

     Kaplan, C.               ‘Narrative Contracts and Emancipatory Readers: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,’ Yale Journal of Criticism 6:1 (1993). Recommended.

     Kawash, S.              Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity and Singularity in African-American Narrative, 1997.

     Kellener, B.             The Harlem Renaissance: A Historical Dictionary, 1987.

     Kramer, V., ed.        The Harlem Reniassance Re-examined (1987)

     Larson, C.                Invisible Darkness: Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen, 1993.

     Lee, A.R.                Designs of Blackness: Mappings in the Literature and Culture of Afro-America, 1998.

     Lee, A.R. ed.           Black Fiction: New Essays on the Afro-American Novel Since 1945, 1980. 

     Lewis, D.                 When Harlem was in Vogue, 1981.

     Lewis, D,                 W.E.B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, 1993.

     Madigan, M.            ‘Miscegenation and ‘The Dicta of Race and Class’: The Rinelander Case and Nella Larsen’s Passing,’ Modern Fiction Studies 36 (1990): 523-29.

     Maxwell, W.J.          New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars (1999)

     Mills, B.                   ‘Lydia Maria Child and the Endings to Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents,’ American Literature 62:2 (1992).

     Morgan, W.             ‘Gender-related Difference in the Slave Narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass’, American Studies 35:2 (1994): 73-94.

   * Morrison, T.            Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, 1992.

     Muferene, S. et al     African-American English, 1998.

     Nelson, E. S. ed.      Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color, 1993.

     North, M.                 The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language and Twentieth-Century Literature, 1994.

     Oliver, P.      Blues Fell this Morning: Meaning in the Blues 

     Oliver, P.                 Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning in the Blues (1990)

     Pfeiffer, K.              ‘Individualism, Success and American Identity in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man’, African-American Review 30:3 (1996): 406-19.

     Plaza, K. &              The Discourse of Slavery: Aphra Behn to Toni Morrison, 1994.
        B. Ring eds.     Essays on Douglass, Jacobs, Morrison.

     Potkay, A. &           Black Atlantic Writers of the 18th Century: Living the New Exodus in

       S. Burr                  England and the Americas, 1995.  Equiano and his contemporaries.

   * Pryse, M. &            Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, 1985.

        H. Spillers eds.     

     Randle, G.                ‘Between the Rock and the Hard Place: Mediating Spaces in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’, African-American Review 33:3 (1999): 45-56.

     Reimonenq, A.         ‘Countee Cullen’s Uranian “Soul Windows”, in Nelson, ed., Critical Essays.

     Reising, R.               A Useable Past: Theory and American Literature, 1986. On Douglass.

     Rhodes, C.               ‘Writing up the New Negro’, Journal of American Studies 28 (1994), 191-207. [on Nella Larsen]

     Rice, A.                   ‘Finger-Snapping to Train-Dancing and Back Again: The Development of a Jazz Style in African-American Prose’, Yearbook of English Studies 24 (1994): 105-116.

     Sale, M.                   ‘Critiques from Within: Antebellum Projects of Resistence,’ American Literature 54 (1992).  Chestnutt, Douglass.

     Schor, E.                  Visible Ellison: A Study of Ralph Ellison’s Fiction, 1993.

     Sheey, J.                  ‘The Mirror and the Veil: The Passing Novel and the Quest for American Racial Identity’, African-American Review 33.3 (1999): 401-15.

     Shivers, S. et al eds. The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations, 1980. [hard to find]

     Singh, N. P.             ‘Retracing the Black-red Thread’, American Literary History 15: 4 (2003).

     Smethurst, J.            The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African-American Poetry 1930-1946, 1999.  [Hughes, Brown]

     Smith, V.                             ‘“Loopholes of Retreat”: Architecture and Ideology in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’, in Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism and the Politics of the Body, ed. K. Sachez-Eppler, 1997.

     Sollers, W.               Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature (1997)

     Sollers, W. &           The Black Colombiad: Defining Moments in African-American Literature

        M. Diedrich, eds.   and Culture, 1994.

     Stanson, E., ed.        Black Sister: Poetry by Black American Women, 1746-1980, 1981. [Anthology]

     Staub, M.                 Voices of Persuasion, 1994. Chapt. on Hurston.

     Steptoe, R.               From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative, 1979.   

     Sullivan, N.              ‘Nella Larsen’s Passing and the Fading Subject,’ African-American Review 32 (1998): 373-85.

 *  Sundquist, E.            To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, 1993. Useful on Chestnutt in particular, but also Douglass and others.

     Sundquist, E., ed.      Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays, 1991.

     Tate, C.                   Psychoanalysis and Black Novels: Desire and Protocols of Race, 1998.   

     Wald, G.                  Crossing the Line:Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture, 2000.

     Wald, P.                  Constituting America: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form, 1995. See on Douglass, Our Nig, Du Bois.

  * Walker, A.               In Search of Our Mothers’s Gardens, 1983. 

     Wall, C.                   ‘Passing for What? Aspects of Identity in Nella Larsen’s Novels’, Black American Literary Forum 20 (1986).

     Warhol, R.               ‘“Reader Can You Imagine? No, You Cannot”: The Narratee as Other in Harriet Jacobs’s Text’, Narrative 3.1 (1995): 57-77.

     Webb, J.                  ‘Literature and Lynching: Identity in Jean Tomer’s Cane’, ELH 67 (2000): 205-28.

     Weixlemann, J.         Black Feminist Criticism and Critical Theory, 1988.

     White, J.                  ‘Veiled Testimony: Negro Spirituals and Slave Experience’, American Studies 17 (1983).

     Willis, S.                  Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience, 1987.

     Wintz, C.                 Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance, 1988.

     Woods, G.                A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition, 1998. [Harlem Rennaissance, Baldwin]

     Yellin, J.                  ‘Written By Herself: Harriet Jacob’s Slave Narrative,’ American Literature 53, 1981. 

     Youman, M.             ‘Nella Larsen’s Passing: a study in irony’, College Language Association Journal 18 (1974-5): 235-41.

     Young, J.                 Black Writers of the Thirties (1973)

      Zamir, S.                 W.E. DuBois, 1994. 




Bibliography 3 : Literature from 1940


Again, the list below indicates some available secondary reading, but you should always consider primary reading outside the set list: an essay on Ralph Ellison might refer to his short stories; a piece on Morrison or Baldwin could refer to novels not studied in class.  There is a great deal more available on some of the writers in this part of the course, especially Morrison.



     Abbandonato, L.       ‘A View from Elsewhere: Subversive Sexuality and the Retelling of the Heroine’s Story in The Color Purple’, PMLA 106:5 (1991):1106-15.

  * Andrews, W.L.        The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 1997.

           et al (eds)

     Armstrong, N.          ‘Why Daughters Die: The Racial Logic of American Sentimentalism’, The Yale Journal of Criticism 7: 2 (1994): 1-24.  [Beloved]

  * Awkward, M.           Inspiring Influences: Tradition, Revision, & Afro-American Women Novelists, 

     Baker, H., ed.          Twentieth Century Interpretations of Native Son, 1972.                                     1989.

     Baker, H.                 Afro-American Poetics, 1988.

     Bell, B.                    The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, 1987.

     Benston, K.              Baraka: The Renegade and the Mask, 1976.

     Berlant, L.               ‘Race, gender & Nation in The Color Purple’, Critical Inquiry 14(1988): 606-23.

     Bigsby, C., ed.          The Second Black Renaissance, 1980.

     Bloom, H., ed.          Bigger Thomas, 1990.

     Bloom, H., ed.          Richard Wright’s Native Son, 1988.

     Bloom, H., ed.          Modern Critical Views: Toni Morrison, 1990.

     Borris, E.                 ‘“You Wouldn’t Want One of ‘em Dancing with Your Wife”: Racialized Bodies on the Job in World War II’, American Quarterly 50:4 (1998): 77-108.

     Braxton, J. &           Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture

        A. McLaughlin      and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance, 1990. 

     Broderick, D.           Reading By Startlight: Postmodern Science Fiction (1995)

     Bryant, J.                 ‘The Violence of Native Son’, Southern Review 17:2 (1981): 303-19.

     Butler, R.                 ‘The Function of Violence in Richard Wright’s Native Son’, Black American Literary Forum 20:1-2 (1986): 9-25.

     Butler-Evans, E.       Race, Gender & Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker (1989)

     Callahan, J.              In the African-American Grain: The Pursuit of Voice in Twentieth-Century Black Fiction, 1988. 

  * Carby, H.                 Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist, 1987. 

     Cohen, W.               ‘Liberalism, Libido, Liberation: Baldwin’s Another Country’, Genders 12 (1991):1-21.

     Cooke, M.                Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century: The Achievement of Intimacy, 1984.

     Christian, B.             Black Women Novelists, 1980. 

     Christian, B.             ‘Being the Subject and the Object: Reading African-American Women’s Novels,’ in Greene and Kahn, eds., Changing Subjects, 1993.

     Christol, H.              ‘Reconstructing American History: Land and Genealogy in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day’, in Werner Sollors & Maria Diedrich, eds., The Black Columbiad: Defining Moments in African American Literature and Culture, 1994, pp.347-56. 

  * Cruse, H.                 The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967. 

     Deburg, W. ed.        Modern Black Nationalism from Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakan, 1997.

     Dhairyam, S.            ‘Artifacts for Survival: Remapping the Contours of Poetry with Audre Lorde,’ Feminist Studies 18 (1922): 229-256.

     Donawerth, J.          Frankenstein’s Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction (1997)

     Donlon, J.H.             ‘Hearing is Believing: Southern Racial Communities and Strategies of Story-Listening in Gloria Naylor and Lee Smith’, Twentieth Century Literature 41 (1995): 16-35.

     Early, G.                  ‘The Case of Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka’, Salgamundi 70-71 (1986): 343-52.

     Early, G.                  The Color Purple as Everybody’s Protest Novel,’ Antioch Review 50:1-2 (1992): 399-412.

  * Ellison, R.                Shadow and Act, 1964.

     Erikson, P.               ‘Shakespeare’s Naylor, Naylor’s Shakespeare: Shakespearean Allusion as Appropriation in Gloria Naylor’s Quartet’, in Tracy Mishkin, ed., Literary Influence and African-American Writers, 1996, pp.325-57. 

     Erkkila, B.                The Wicked Sisters, 1990. Ch. on Gwendolen Brooks.

     Evans, M. ed.           Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, 1984.  

     Fabre, M. et al         Chester Himes : an annotated primary and secondary bibliography (1992)

     Felton, A. and          The Critical Response to Gloria Naylor, 1997.

          M. Loris, eds.

     Fishburn, K.             Richard Wright’s Hero, 1979.

     France, A.               ‘Misogyny and Appropriation in Wright’s Native Son’, Modern Fiction Studies 34:3 (1988): 413-423.

     Froula, C.                 ‘The Daughter’s Seduction: Sexual Violence and Literary History’, Signs 11:4 (1986): 621-44.

     Furman, J.                Toni Morrison’s Fiction, 1996.

     Gallagher, K.            ‘Bigger’s Great Leap to the Figurative’, CLA Journal 27:3 (1984): 293-314.

  * Gates, H.                 The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism, 1988.

     Gates, H.                 Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the ‘Racial’ Self, 1989. 

     Gates, H. ed.            Black Literature and Literary Theory, 1984. 

     Gates, H. ed.            ‘Race,’ Writing and Difference, 1986.

     Gates, H. ed.            Reading Black, Reading Feminist, 1990.

     Gates, H.                 ‘Significant Others’, Contemporary Literature 29:4 (1988): 606-23. [Naylor]

     Gates, H., &            Richard Wright: Critical Perspectives, 1993.

        K. Appiah, eds.

     Gates, H.L. and,       Gloria Naylor: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, 1999.

         K. Appiah, eds.

  * Gilroy, P.                  The Black Atlantic, 1993.  Morrison.

     Green, G., ed.           Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism, 1985.

     Gross, S.L. &           Images of the Negro in American Literature, 1996.

        J.E. Hardy, eds.

     Hakutani, Y., ed.      Critical Essays on Richard Wright (1982)

     Hamilton, C.             ‘Revisions, Rememories and Exorcisms: Toni Morrison and the Slave Narrative’, Journal of American Studies 30:3 (1996): 429-45.

     Harney, S.               ‘Ethnos and the Beat Poets’, Journal of American Studies 25:3 (1991): 363-80.

     Harris, T.                 ‘From Exile to Asylum’, in Women’s Writing in Exile, ed. M Broe & A Ingram 1989. On Alice Walker.

     Heble, A.                 ‘The Poetics of Jazz: From Symbolic to Semiotic’, Textual Practice 2:1 (1988): 51-68.

     Henderson, S.          Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References, 1973.

     Hilfer, T.                  American Fiction Since 1940, 1992.

     Hite, M.                   ‘Romance, Marginality and Matrilineality: Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God’, Novel 22 (1989): 257-73.

     Homans, M.             ‘The Woman and the Cave: Recent Feminist Fictions and the Classical Underworld’, Contemporary Literature 29:3 (1988): 369-402. [Naylor]

     hooks, bel                 ‘Writing the Subject: Reading The Colour Purple’, Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology, ed. H L Gates, 1990.

     Horvath, B.              ‘The Satisfactions of What’s Difficult in Gwendolen Brook’s Poetry’, American Literature 62:4 (1990): 606-16.

  * Howe, I.                  ‘Black Boys and Native Sons’ (Dissent, 1963 – the essay Ellison’s ‘The World and the Jug’ responds to). Widely reprinted in Howe’s various collections. Edited version available at: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/howe-blackboys.html

     JanMohamed, A.      ‘Sexuality on/of the Racial Border: Foucault, Wright and the Articulation of ‘Racialized Sexuality’, in Discourse of Sexuality, ed. D. Stanton, 1992.

     Jordan, J.                 Moving Towards Home: Political Essays, 1989.

     King, N.                   Memory, Narrative and Identity: Remembering the Self, 2000. [on Beloved]

     Kinnamon, K.           The Emergence of Richard Wright, 1972.

     Kinnamon, K., ed.    New Essays on `Native Son’, 1990.

     Kinnamon, K., ed.    James Baldwin: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1974.

     Korenman, J. S.       ‘African American Women Writers, Black Nationalism, and the Matrilineal Heritage’, College Language Association Journal, 38:2 (1994), 143-61

     Kostelanitz, R.          Politics in the Afro-American Novel, 1991.

     Kubitschek, M. D.    ‘Toward a New Order: Shakespeare, Morrison, and Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day’, MELUS  19:3 (1994), 75-90.

     Lauret, M.               Liberating Literature:Feminist Fictions in America, 1994. [Alice Walker]

     Lauret, M.               Alice Walker, 2000.

     Lee, A. R.               ‘Violence Real and Imagined: The World of Chester Himes’s Novels’, Negro American Literary Forum 10.1 (1976): 13-22. See also his Designs of Blackness: Mappings in the Literature and Culture of Afro-America, 1998.

  * Levine, L.                Black Culture and Black Consciousness, 1977.

     Light, A.                  ‘Fear of the Happy Ending: The Color Purple, reading & racism,’ in L. Anderson, ed, Plotting Change, 1990 [also pub. in Essays & Studies 40 (1987): 103-17].

     McDowell, D.          ‘New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism,’ in E. Showalter (ed.), The New Feminist Criticism, 1986. (See essay by Smith in same collection.)

     McDowell, D.          ‘The Changing Same: Generational Connections and Black Women Novelists’, New Literary History 18:2 (1987): 281-302.

     Margolies                 A Chester Himes Bibliography

       & Fabre

     Matus, J.                  Toni Morrison (1994)

     Mehaffy, M. &        ‘“Radio Imagination”: Octavia Butler on the Poetics of Narrative Embodiment,’

        A. Keating                        MELUS, 26.1 (2001), 45-76.  [Available through JSTOR.]

     Meisenhelder, S.       ‘The Whole Picture in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, African-American Review, 27:3 (1993), 405-19.

     Melhem, D.              Heroism in the New Black Poetry, 1990.

     Melhem, D.              Gwendolen Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice, 1987

     Middleton, D., ed.     Toni Morrison’s Fiction: Contemporary Criticism, 1997.

     Miller, D. ed.            Re-viewing James Baldwin: Things Not Seen, 2000.    

     Miller, E.                  Voice of a Native Son: The Poetics of Richard Wright, 1990.

     Milliken, S.               Chester Himes: A Critical Appraisal, 1976.

     Mishkin,T., ed.         Literary Influence and African-American Writers, 1996. [Naylor and others]

     Mitchell, A. ed.        Within the Circle: An Anthology of African-American Literary Criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the Present, 1994. Excellent collection.

     Mitchell, K.              ‘Bodies that Matter: Science Fiction, Technoculture, and the Gendered Body’, Science Fiction Studies, 33.1 (2006), 109-128

     Mitchell, W. J. T.     ‘Narrative, Memory and Slavery’, in his Picture Theory (1994); also in Ezell, Margaret J.M. & K. O’Keefe, eds., Cultural Artefacts and the Production of Meaning: The Page, the Image and the Body (1994).

     Mootry, M. et al       A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry & Fiction, 1987.

  * Morrison, T.             Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, 1992. 

     Muferene, S. et al     African-American English, 1998.

     Mullen, B.                ‘Popular Fronts Negro Story Magazine and the African-American Literary Response to World War Two’, African-American Review 30.1 (1996): 5-15.

     Muller, H.                ‘Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness’, Diacritics 24:2-3 (1994): 71-89.  [On ‘passing’ and related issues]

     Naylor, G.                ‘Love and Sex in the Afro-American Novel’, Yale Review 78:1 (1989): 19-31.

     Nelson, E., ed.          Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color, 1993.

     Nielsen, A. L.          Black Chant: Languages of African-American Postmodernism, 1997.

     Nicholls, P.              Chapter on Beloved in Sue Vice, ed. Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism, 1995.

     O’Daniel, T.             James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation, 1977.

     O’Meally, R.            The Craft of Ralph Ellison, 1980. 

     Olaniyan, T.             Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance, 1995.

     Patterson, O.            Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries (1998)

     Peach, L.                             Toni Morrison, 1995.

     Peterson, N.J. ed.     Toni Morrison: Critical & Theoretical Approaches, 1997.

     Plaza, K.                  Beloved (Icon Guide), 1998.

     Prowdfit, C.             ‘Celie’s Search for Identity: A Psychoanalytic Developmental Reading of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple’, Contemporary Literature 32:1 (1991): 12-37.

     Pryse, M. &             Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition. 1985.

        H. Spillers, eds.                

     Puhr, K. M.             ‘Healers in Gloria Naylor’s Fiction’, Twentieth Century Literature 40:4 (1994), 518-27.

     Rampersand, A.       Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1995.

     Reilly, J.                   Richard Wright: The Critical Reception, 1978. 

     Rigney, B.                The Voices of Toni Morrison, 1991.

     Robbins, S.               ‘Gendering the History of the Anti-slavery narrative’, American Quarterly 49:3 (1997), 531-67.  Morrison, Johnson.

     Rody, C.                  ‘Toni Morrison’s Beloved: History, Rememory and a “Clamor for a Kiss”’, American Literary History 7:1 (1995): 92-119.

     Rowden, T.              ‘A Play of Abstractions: Race, Sexuality and Community in James Baldwin’s Another Country’, Southern Review 29:1 (1993): 41-50.

     Sallis, J.                   Chester Himes: A Life, 2000.

     Sandiford, K.A.        ‘Gothic & Intertextual Constructs in Linden Hills,’ Arizona Quarterly 47:3 (1991): 117-39.

     Shaw, H.                 Gwendolen Brooks, 1980.

     Showalter, E.           Sister’s Choice: Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing (1991) [Naylor]

    Skinner,                    Two Guns from Harlem: The Detective Fiction of Chester Himes (1989).

     Standley, F., ed.        Critical Essays on James Baldwin, 1988.

     Stanson, E., ed.        Black Sister: Poetry by Black American Women, 1746-1980, 1981. Anthology. 

     Steptoe, R.               From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative, 1979. 

     Storhoff, G.              ‘‘The Only Voice Is Your Own’ Gloria Naylor’s Revision of The Tempest’, African-American Review, 29:1 (1995), 35-45.

     Sylvander, C.           James Baldwin, 1980.

     Tate, C.                   Black Women Writers at Work, 1983.

     Taylor, H.                ‘Gwendolen Brooks: An Essential Sanity’, Kenyon Review 13:4 (1991) 115-31.

     Thomas, L.              ‘Communicating by Horns: Jazz and Redemption in the Poetry of the Beats and the Black Arts Movement’, African-American Review 26:2 (1992): 291-98.

     Toombs, C.              ‘The Confluence of Food and Ideas in Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills’, CLA (College Language Association) Journal 37:1 (1993): 1-18.

     Traub, V.                 ‘Rainbows of Darkness: Deconstructing Shakespeare in the Work of Gloria Naylor and Zora Neale Hurston’, in Marianne Novy (ed.), Cross Cultural Performances: Differences in Women’s Re-Visions of Shakespeare, 1993, pp.150-63. 

     Tucker, L.                ‘Recovering the Conjure Woman: Texts and Contexts in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day’, African-American Review, 28:2 (1994), 173-88.

  * Walker, A.               In Search of Our Mothers’s Gardens, 1983.

  * Walker, M.               Down from the Mountaintop: Black Women Novelists in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement, 1966-89, 1991.

     Wall, C.                   ‘Extending the Line from Sula to Mama Day,’ Callaloo 23.4 (2000), 1449-63,

     Walls, D.                 ‘The Clue Undetected in Richard Wright’s Native Son’, American Literature 57:1 (1985): 125-8.

     Ward, C. C.             ‘Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills: A Modern Inferno’, Contemporary Literature 28:1 (1987): 67-86.  

     Warren, N.              Cocoa and George: A Love Dialectic’, SAGE, 7:2 (1990), 19-25.

     Waters-Dawson, E.  ‘From Victim to Victor: Walker’s Women in The Color Purple’, in The Aching Heart: Family & Violence in Life and Literature, ed. S. Deats, 1991.

     Watts, J.G.               Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politivs and Afro-American Intellectual Life, 1994.

     Whitt, M. E.             Understanding Gloria Naylor, 1999.

     Willis, S.                  Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience, 1987.

     Wisker, G., ed.         Black Women’s Writing, 1993. 

     Wyatt, J.                  ‘Giving Body to the Word: The Maternal Symbolic in Toni Morrison’s Beloved,’ PMLA 106 (1993): 474-488.


Journals          For specific authors recent articles may be the best source (a number are listed above). Useful journals held in the either at RHBNC (hard copy + electronic journals on JSTOR) or (a better print collection) Senate House include African American Review, Callaloo, Black American Literature Forum, American Literature, American Quarterly, Journal of American Studies, Twentieth Century Fiction, Modern Fiction Studies. Articles can be located via the MLA Annual Bibliography, available on the College network, or in the Senate House library. You can search by author, subject, keyword strings, etc.


Internet     Increasingly you will find good material here, though you’ll have to wade through a lot of dross. It is particularly good for hard-to-get contextual and primary material and for bibliography. For example: if you wondered how Frederick Douglass actually escaped north, you can find a magazine article in which he described his escape archived on the web. Any search engine will give results, and  there are established lists of black history and culture sites. 


Some useful web material is listed on my links page.




Some Advice on Seminar Presentations


Here is some general advice on presenting papers in seminars. Remember:  this is part of you non-assessed requirement for the course, and comments on it are incorporated into the report on the course which your tutor writes for your file. The skills used here are an essential part of the degree.


·       Keep it simple and short (5-10 minutes). A short vivid response to a text is fine, raising a few items of interest for discussion.  If you have the confidence, it is better to talk to bullet points than to read out a script: the aim is to communicate well to the rest of the group. It helps to rehearse a little.


·       Avoid intoning a list of general facts about an author or text, dates, etc.; and avoid plot-summary. As with an essay, anything too general will simply become diffuse.  A handout (which I will copy if you get it to me in advance) is often useful for dealing with any factual material you want covered.


·       There are no rules about what to deal with. You might decide to look at a few aspects of the text closely; or flesh out a historical context; or pursue a line of interpretation (even one borrowed from a secondary text, with acknowledgment and, hopefully, a critique or assessment of the line taken and comparison with another possible interpretation).


·       Joint papers can be delivered by one of you, but what is produced should normally be a genuinely collaborative effort rather than two unrelated papers.  Students have experimented in the past with dialogues, alternating speeches, opposed papers, etc.  Consider using visual aids.





Course-Work Essay Questions


These are the topics for the non-assessed course-work essay.  I have suggested general areas of investigation rather than precise topics, leaving it up to you to choose your texts and approach. Come and see me if confused, or if you want to negotiate a topic not allowed by this list. The essays should be no more than 2,500-3,000  words.



1.  Intertextual relations:  discuss the way in which any of the texts you have studied rework other texts, allude to them, subvert them. Or consider the notion of a black tradition: how is it constructed? Is it implicitly separatist?  


2.  Genre: the issues raised by the use of different forms (poetic, the novel, the autobiographical narrative, the trickster story etc.). You might also consider the relations between speaking (oral forms) and writing.


3.  Language Practices: consider the use of particular forms of speaking, storytelling, joking, insulting, naming, etc. in relation to the texts you have studied.  How do such usages reflect Afro-American culture and its relations to the dominant culture? 


4.  History: discuss the way in which the history of Afro-Americans in America is described or used in any of the texts studied (as topic, structuring device, etc.).  If you wish, focus on one moment/place or on one topic (eg. the escape north; the achievement of literacy). 


5. Gender: write on some aspect of gender relations in the novels studied; or attempt to explain a different ‘women's tradition’ in Afro-American writing in terms of a different experience. Or ralated issues such as sexuality, homosexuality, mixed-race desire.


6.  Music: present in many of the texts studied.  Can you relate the Blues or Jazz to Afro-American literature (use one text or a combination; an in-depth discussion or survey plus general comments on the significance of music, improvization, tradition etc.).


7.  Identity: issues relating to the self and its definition in terms of social and racial categories:  ‘passing,’ the ‘double self,’ the role of the intellectual or artist, etc.


8.  ‘Blackness’: what metaphorical connotations are attributed to ‘blackness’ in Western Cultures?  How do Afro-American Writings incorporate or resist such connotations, and the discourse of racism generally?


9.  Politics:  the call to action; Radicalism vs. Liberalism; Separatism vs. Integration; analyses of and attacks on White America.









for Internal Students of Royal Holloway










1.                  Using any at least three of the texts you have studied, illustrate some of the different conceptions – implict or explicit – of the relationship between race and culture which have characterized African-American tradition.


2.                  With reference to at least two texts, discuss one of the following topics in the African-American tradition: the voyage to Europe; the first encounter with race (the ‘mirror stage’); the lost parent; the return to the South. 


3.                  Discuss the different theories of resistance that are deployed in the texts of two or more of the following writers:  Frederick Douglass; Harriet Jacobs; Charles Chesnutt; W. E. Du Bois; Zora Neale Hurston.


4.                  ‘The true subject of the passing narrative is the creation of a black bourgeoisie’. Discuss.


5.                  What does music mean to the black author?


6.                  Discuss the way in which writing is represented in African-American tradition.


7.                  Discuss one of the following in any the texts you have studied: shame; pain; self-harm.


8.                  How have African-American authors exploited dialect?


9.                  Discuss the use of the multi-generic work in The Souls of Black Folk and/or Cane. 


10.              All night now the jooks clanged and clamored . . . Blues made and used right on the spot.  Dancing, fighting, and singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing love every hour. . . The rich black earth clinging to bodies and biting the skin like ants.  (Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God)

Would you agree that the desire to create a utopian or livable space is a recurrent concern in Afro-American writing?








for Internal Students of Royal Holloway










1.  Discuss the legacy of Richard Wright’s Native Son for African-American writing in terms of any of the following: radicalism; the anti-hero; violence; debates about political aesthetics; the analysis of masculinity. You should refer to Wright and at least two other writers.


2.  One study of southern black folk-belief suggests ‘a definite belief in a kra or dream-soul … in which a dream becomes the actual experience of the dreamer’s Soul wandering into another world’. Comment, in this light, on the dreams in If He Hollers Let Him Go, on Beloved, or on any other suitable text. You should refer to at least two texts. 


3.  Discuss the ways in which Invisible Man imposes an allegorical or mythical cast on its individual episodes, and consider the implications of that procedure.


4.  ‘Where had their labor gone?’ (Invisible Man). Discuss the treatment of work and/or money and/or consumer goods in at least two of the texts you have studied. 


5.   Compare the treatment of any of the following in Another Country and The Color Purple: music; homosexuality; the figure of the writer; mourning.


6.  Compare and contrast the aesthetic program of the Black Arts Movement with that of the Harlem Renaissance. 


7.  Discuss the way in which The Color Purple recalls or revises the sentimental modes of eighteenth and nineteenth-century writing (black or white).


8.  What are the implications of the narrative ordering (or disordering) of Beloved? 


9.                                 Well, in the sixties our principal interpreters were Black men. Of course their position is unassailable; but I have little in common with Wright and Ellison because there was a void at the centre, no female voice. I had the feeling they were not talking to me, their editorial address was explanatory, to other men, possibly to white men.  (Toni Morrison, 1993).


Using this comment, with its potentially insulting tone, as a starting point, compare the assumptions about gender and voice in the work of Morrison and/or Walker and at least one black male author writing prior to 1970.


10.                               Yonder come day, I heard him say

Yonder come day, it’s a dying day.

Yonder come day, it’s a burying day.

Yonder come day, I was on my knees.

Yonder come day, when I heard him say:

Yonder come day, that’s a New Year’s day.

Yonder come day, well, come on, child.


Use these lines – from ‘O Day’, a Sea Islands shout marking the end of an all-night prayer meeting – as the starting point for a discussion of black spirituality in Mama Day and at least one other text.


11. Beginning with the eviction scene in Invisible Man, discuss the depiction of the African-American past in terms of the trace or fragment.  You should refer to at least two texts.


12.  Discuss one of the following notions in at least two texts you have studied: imprisonment; the suspended sentence; shame; dispossession; the lost or dead leader.







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