Fall 2024

U.S. Black Literature and Culture

Listed in: English, as ENGL-365


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


In this course, we will follow the trajectory of U.S. Black writing from its origins to 1940, paying particular attention to the extraordinarily rich diasporic culture out of which that writing grew. The sounds of Black living, in particular, will inform our approach to the rhythms and patterns of Black writing. We will also address the use of white textual models in early U.S. Black literature, with an emphasis on the artfulness of the way in which Black writers bent the traditions of British and American writing to their own uses. Finally, we will generate, over time, an archive of analyses and critiques of white U.S. culture by Black people with direct experiences of slavery or Jim Crow. Readings will include the slave narratives of Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, the poetry of Phillis Wheatley Peters and Langston Hughes, the novels of Pauline Hopkins, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston, and the essays and stories of W. E. B. DuBois and Richard Wright.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference in case of over-enrollment will be to English majors and Black Studies majors, and then sophomores.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Learning how to read closely and with emotional intelligence; learning how to augment the experience of reading through informal reflective writing and class participation; learning that all ideas are associatively connected to other ideas and that there are powerful alternatives to state-illustrate-restate arguments. There will be pre-class writing assignments, two papers, and an emphasis on the quality of the contributions to class discussion. There will be no quizzes or exams.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024