ENGL-204 African American Literature
Fall for 2014-2015
"Civil Rights and African American Literature"
Throughout the past forty years, African American writers have used their literary works to think about the modern Civil Rights Movement. Although historians often argue that the Civil Rights era began in 1953 and ended in 1968, feminist historian Jacqueline Dowd recently has encouraged civil rights era scholars to consider the “long” civil rights movement. By expanding the time period that we use to classify the Civil Rights era, we might think about several issues related to that time period in more nuanced ways. If, for example, we consider the labor movements of the 1930 as part of the Civil Rights Movement, our understanding of gender and leadership during the Movement in the 1950s might be enhanced. In this course, we will undertake Dowd’s challenge, examining how African American literature produced since the mid 1960s assists us in this process of “revisionary historiography” about the Civil Rights Movement and even the Black Power Movement. As we examine the historical period and literary texts, issues of leadership, activism, gender, and periodization will inform our analyses. Moreover, we will interrogate the definition of civil rights, including the historicity of this phrase as it specifically relates to African Americans’ quests for political, economic, and cultural enfranchisement in the United States. Alongside this concern, we will consider how feminist, black feminist, and gay rights movements have appropriated rhetoric and tropes of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as how those movements in turn have re-shaped our understanding or the gender and sexual politics of the Civil Rights Movement. Consistent and engaged reading will be essential for success in this course.
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