English C136

Topics in American Studies: Harlem Renaissance

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2022 Wagner, Bryan
MW 12-2 Haviland 12

Book List

Cullen, Countee: Color; Hughes, Langston: Fine Clothes to the Jew; Hughes, Langston: The Weary Blues; Hurston, Zora Neale: The Sanctified Church; Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God; Johnson, James Weldon: Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Locke, Alain: The New Negro; McKay, Claude: Harlem Shadows; Thurman (et al), Wallace: Fire!!; Toomer, Jean: Cane


This course explores the social, cultural, political, and personal awakenings in the literature, art, and music of the Negro Renaissance or the New Negro Movement, now commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance. This is remembered as a time (roughly 1918-1930) when, in the midst of legal segregation and increasing anti-Black mob violence, Black American writers, artists, philosophers, activists, and musicians, congregating in New York City’s Harlem, reclaimed the right to represent themselves in a wide range of artistic forms and activist movements. At stake: who were, and are, Black Americans? What was distinctive about Black art? What gave it such broad, international appeal? Could art be used to uplift the conditions of a people? Were Black artists obligated to make their art a means of protest against racism? If they were, would they produce art or propaganda? Our task in this course is to explore these and other questions through close analysis of major works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and many others. This course is co-taught by Professor Christine Palmer (American Studies) and Professor Bryan Wagner (English).

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