Spring 2025

Black Feminist Theory

Listed in: English, as ENGL-349


Frank Leon Roberts (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 349 and SWAG 350) This seminar focuses on the politics and poetics of twentieth and twenty-first century Black feminist thought and practice. More specifically, in this course we will consider how Black women writers in the U.S. have troubled the waters of what constitutes “theory,” what constitutes “activism,” and ultimately what constitutes feminism. Though literature will be our primary object of analysis, we will go astray many times by engaging black feminism in non-literary genres (such as in music and art). Central themes this semester will include: the dialogic nature of Black women’s fiction; sexual conservation and the politics of Black respectability; subaltern knowledge and “theory from below”; variations in literary form (fiction, poetry, personal essays, etc.), intersectionality and the quadrilateral nature of oppression, and the Black female body as a site of ideological and political warfare.

Authors whose work we will engage will include Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Lynn Nottage, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Cheryle Clarke, Hortense Spillers, Patricia Hill Collins, Tricia Rose, Joan Morgan, bell hooks, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw and Alexis Pauline Gumbs. This course does not require or presume previous coursework in Black Studies, though it may be useful.

Spring semester. Professor Roberts.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: weekly readings and screenings; in-class activities (lectures, close readings of films and media, discussions, and debates); regular writing assignments (reading responses, textual analysis, argument-driven essays); oral presentations.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2025