M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL/INDS 240: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture
Fall 2008
Section 1: MWF 3-3:50, Fenton 174
Office: Fenton 265; MWF 1-2, Th 3-5, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu; brucesimon18@yahoo.com
Web site: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
ANGEL space: https://angel.fredonia.edu/



City


If you thought we were missing out on a lot of country-related works, it'll probably make you feel worse to realize that we're missing out on an even greater number of city-related works, from takes on segregation-era Chicago like Richard Wright's autobiography Black Boy and August Wilson's play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom to the variegated cultural productions of the Harlem Renaissance (sometimes called the New Negro Renaissance to emphasize that it was a national phenomenon not limited to Harlem) and their relation to the modernist movement in Europe and America, to such post-Renaissance engagements with the city as Richard Wright's novel Native Son, Baldwin's and Ellison's many essay collections, Anne Petry's novel The Street (although we are getting a taste of it in our anthology), Paule Marshall's novel Brown Girl, Brownstones, William Attaway's novel Blood on the Forge, Chester Himes's novel If He Hollers Let Him Go, Amiri Baraka's play Dutchman, Gloria Naylor's novel The Women of Brewster Place, August Wilson's play Fences, or Rita Dove's book of poetry Thomas and Beulah--not to mention recent efforts to rethink the Harlem Renaissance era by such writers as Ishmael Reed (Mumbo Jumbo), Toni Morrison (most notably in Jazz, but she engages urban life in virtually every novel), or Samuel Delany (we're only reading a fragment of the brilliant novella Atlantis: Model 1924).

What we'll do instead is focus on representations of urban life or perspectives on the relation between country and city in early-to-mid-twentieth century African American literature. We'll be building on representations of the city in the slave narratives we read by Douglass and Jacobs in the country unit, as well as focus on the other end of the great migration that was the foreground of Wilson's play set in 1911 Pittsburgh. We'll get a chance to read important works by Brooks and Hansberry in their entirety, along with excerpts from many others. You will have the option for your critical essay on this unit to contrast late twentieth century movies by African Americans and others and consider how representations of the city have changed over the course of the twentieth century. More generally, we will consider how a given writer responds to the place itself and to typical images of and narratives about that place in their times. What's at stake in the differing representations of and responses to the city, from the Harlem Renaissance to the blaxploitation and gangsta films of the past thirty years? Is the city a chance for a new start or just old wine in a new bottle? Is the city the cultural center of African American life, or does the country retain its position of prominence?

Suggestions for further exploration:




M A I N * L I N K S


ENGL/INDS 240: Introduction to African American Literature and Culture, Fall 2008
Created: 9/11/08 4:14 pm
Last modified: 9/11/08 4:14 pm
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia