English 133T

Topics in African American Literature and Culture: Do What You Gotta Do: The Art of Black Diaspora

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2017 Ellis, Nadia
MWF 1-2 155 Barrows

Book List

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Americanah; Hurston, Zora Neale: Tell My Horse; McKay, Claude: Home to Harlem; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen; Scott, Dennis: An Echo in the Bone

Other Readings and Media

Please note the revised book list (above) as of July 18.

Films: Daughters of the Dust, dir. Julie Dash; Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney

Music: 'Nuff Said, Nina Simone (1968); Marcus Garvey, Burning Spear (1975); Lemonade, Beyoncé (2016)

Course Reader with works by Marcus Garvey, Alain Locke, Katherine Dunham, James Baldwin, Stuart Hall, Saidiya Hartman, and others, available at Copy Central, Bancroft Avenue


Just find that dappled dream of yours
Come on back and see me when you can

– Clarence Carter & Nina Simone & Roberta Flack, et al

The black diaspora is, of course and amongst other things, a literary tradition: a complex, internally differentiated set of texts produced by black writers located in almost every nation across the globe, equal in complexity and variation to the modern concept of race that is inextricably tied to its formation. But what conceptual framework could possibly contain such a dazzlingly various literary canon? In this class we’ll read novels, watch films, listen to music, and look at art to begin to answer that question. As the title of the course suggests, we’ll begin with a certain supposition: what happens when we think of black diasporic creativity as emerging between imperative and dream (…you gotta do); between roving and recovery (come on back...)? What, then, are the necessities of black invention; and what are its luxuries, its excesses, its pleasures? And what changes, politically, conceptually, when we attend to diasporic difference as we do to the shifts in tonality and meaning between versions of a song?

The texts for this course will be available at University Press Books, on Bancroft Way.

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