English 133T

Topics in African American Literature and Culture: The Art of the Black Diaspora

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2021 Ellis, Nadia
TTh 9:30-11

Book List

Brodber, Erna: Louisiana; Gyasi, Yaa: Homegoing; Hartman, Saidiya: Lose Your Mother; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Other Readings and Media

Films will include Daughters of the Dust (dir. Julie Dash); Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins); and Atlantique (dir. Mati Diop).

Music will include works by Nina Simone, Burning Spear, and Beyoncé.

Shorter readings and excerpts will include works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Marcus Garvey, Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham, James Baldwin, Saidiya Hartman, and Christina Sharpe.

*Please consult the instructor before purchasing course texts.


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. We'll read critics and thinkers to understand the history of black diaspora, the political implications of its formations, and the theories underwriting its vibrant and varied aesthetics. Adapting to pandemic conditions, the course will favor shorter texts this semester though we will, as usual, move through a broad sweep of the twentieth century and into the contemporary moment, and we'll cover a wide variety of contexts and genres. This variety and breadth is crucial to laying a foundation in the field and to opening up the issue of identity-across-difference that is fundamental in black diasporic culture.

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