Spring 2008

Studies in African American Literature

Listed in: English, as ENGL-66


Joseph Skerrett (Section 01)


The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2008 the topic will be "Wright/Ellison/Baldwin." These three most distinguished and successful African American novelists of the mid-twentieth century form an interesting nest of contrasts and similarities. They knew one another, sometimes mentored, sometimes savaged one another, and as often "stole" from one another. Their cultural, political and literary attitudes cover a wide range, from Marxist radicalism to liberal democratic egalitarianism to apocalyptic prophecy, from heterosexual chauvinism and conventional homophobia to idealized bisexuality/homosexuality, from Jamesian realism to Naturalism to expressionism and surrealism. We will read a collection of stories, a novel or two and selected essays by and criticism of each. We will attempt to answer questions such as: How do these writers relate to one another? How do they connect to the situation of African Americans in their own time-and in ours? How do they connect to the stream(s) of American literature? Required writing: a five to seven page paper on each author. Probable reading list, subject to change: Wright, Uncle Tom's Children, Native Son; Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories, Invisible Man; Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Another Country, Going to Meet the Man. One class meeting per week. Second semester. Professor Skerrett of the University of Massachusetts.