English 133T

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

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2018 Ellis, Nadia
TTh 9:30-11 104 Barrows

Book List

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Americanah; Gyasi, Yaa: Homegoing; Hartman, Saidiya: Lose Your Mother; Head, Bessie: A Question of Power; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; Larsen, Nella: Passing; McKay, Claude: Home to Harlem; Scott, Dennis: An Echo in the Bone; Soyinka, Wole: The Beatification of Area Boy

Other Readings and Media

The texts for this class will be available at University press Books, Bancroft Avenue.

Films: Daughters of the Dust, dir. Julie Dash (1991); Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (2016); Black Panther; dir. Ryan Coogler (2018)

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, Mintz & Price, and others, available at Copy Central, Bancroft Avenue.


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

– "Do What You Gotta Do," Clarence Carter (& Nina Simone & Roberta Flack, et al...)

The black diaspora is, amongst other things, a literary tradition: a complex, cross-generic 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 how can one conceptual framework possibly contain such a dazzlingly various 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 sub-title of the course suggests, we’ll begin with a certain supposition: that something particular happens when we think of black diasporic creativity as emerging between imperative and dream (…you gotta do); between roving and recovery (come on back...). We'll ask about the necessities of black invention; about its luxuries, its excesses, and its pleasures. And we'll use diasporic theory to think about what happens, politically and conceptually, when we attend to black differences 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. Please contact the instructor before buying texts.

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