ENGL-207-01 Black British Literature
Fall for 2009-2010
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Although there has been a sustained black presence in Britain for the last 400 years resulting from the slave trade, it appears, at first glance, that ‘blackness’ only came to complicate ‘Britishness’ once Britain began to receive large amounts of immigrants from its former colonies immediately after World War II. In this course, we will read contemporary novels, poetry and drama that not only deal with this cultural conflict but also give rise to a ‘black British’ cultural identity that attempts (and, perhaps, fails) to incorporate African, Caribbean, Asian and mixed-raced peoples as a united political group. But our particular investigation of this contemporary cultural identity will also be informed by, and grounded in, the black presence in British literature that preceded World War II. Beginning with Shakespeare’s Othello, we will map out a historical and political trajectory of the black presence in British literature prior to 1945 using four perspectives: the literature written by and about blacks in Britain, the literature published by blacks in Britain, and the literature written about people who were likened to blacks in Britain. In this way, the course will explore not only the ongoing changes of black representations in British culture from the 17th to the 21st centuries but also how heavily the contemporary ‘black British’ cultural identity has its roots in political struggles and literary representations of the ‘black British’ past.
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