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John Erwin Drabinski (Section 01)
(Offered as BLST 346 [US] and ENGL 362) What is the political responsibility of the writer? Is the Black writer obligated to testify to, represent, and subject to critique the deep effects and affects of anti-Black racism? Or is the responsibility also something different, something better when committed to documenting life outside and in the cracks of an anti-Black racist world? What is art in relation to politics, politics in relation to art? What ought the artist do with the rage generated by three and a half centuries of anti-blackness? And with the pleasures of life that exist alongside that rage? This course explores the mid-century dispute between Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin concerning the meaning of the Black writer. Questions of colonialism, the uniqueness of the African-American experience, affective life (from rage to pleasure), community, and the genesis of cultural production will frame our readings and critical discussions. Beginning with exemplary novels by Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin—Native Son, Invisible Man, and Go Tell It on the Mountain—we will then consider their non-fiction, focusing on how each thinks through problems of nihilism, art, racialized subjectivity, gender, language, sexuality, class, region, and politics in a national and transnational context. As well, the questions raised in the fiction and non-fiction will help us engage with a cluster of contemporaries (Lorraine Hansberry, Norman Mailer, Kenneth Clark, others) and predecessors (Bessie Smith, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston), all of whom hold important critical positions in this argument.
Fall semester. Professor Drabinski.