English 133T

Topics in African American Literature and Culture: The African-American Essay

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2018 Best, Stephen M.
TTh 2-3:30 202 Wheeler

Book List

Als, Hilton: White Girls; Baldwin, James: No Name in the Street; Baldwin, James: Notes of a Native Son; Baldwin, James: The Fire Next Time; Coates, Ta-Nehisi: Between the World and Me; Hartman, Saidiya: Lose Your Mother; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen


Readers have often turned to the essays of James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston (among others) with a mind to better understanding their literary work.  In this course we will consider the African-American essay as a form in its own right, one that rewards close formal analysis.  The essay (from Old French essai, “attempt”) is a sort of rhetorical trial balloon, implying firstness, a want of finish, and a rigorous nonsystematicity.  We will consider the matter of incompletion in two respects -- the essay as it engages the topic of the incomplete project of black freedom, and the essay as ongoing experiment in form – with a goal of puzzling out how the two are related.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List