Harlem to Hogan's Alley: Black Writing in North America - EN667

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR P Owusu




Not available as wild



Beginning in Harlem in the 1920s and ending in Vancouver at the turn of the 21st century the module will follow a chronological and geographical route from South to North and East to West, exploring a diverse range of literary fiction and poetry that fuses urban black experience and a history of migration. Drawing on material from the US, Canada, and the Caribbean, we will spend time analysing the representation of black identity and experience, aesthetics, and the ethics/politics of literary production. Considering both the material conditions and intellectual challenges faced by different communities, we will examine a rich cultural matrix, from soulful rural folk culture to hard-edged urban cynicism, from the collage and blues aesthetics of the Harlem Renaissance, to the hip-hop vernacular of Vancouver's southwest side.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% coursework:

Two 3000-word essays (45% each)
Seminar performance (10%)

Indicative reading

Alain Locke, Ed. (1925) The New Negro (1925)
Zora Neale Hurston, (1937) Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Toni Cade Bambara, (1972) Gorilla My Love (1972)
Toni Morrison, (1992) Jazz (1992)
Wayde Compton, (1999) 49th Parallel Psalm (1999)
Claudia Rankine, (2014) Citizen: An American Lyric (2014).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Assess a variety of different types of written materials and their relation to verbal, musical, and visual forms, in the course of seminar discussions and interactive lecturer-led presentations.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the different historical and literary trajectories of African Americans in the US, Canada, and to a lesser degree, the Caribbean.
3. Interpret and apply a range of theoretical, aesthetic, and rhetorical concepts in African American and African Canadian writing.
4. Develop complex and historically situated approaches to concepts such as race, migration, the urban sphere, (literary) mapping, musical forms, and internalisation (of colonialism, racism, and so on).
5. Structure nuanced arguments centred on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in literature.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Apply close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and to make complex comparisons between them.
2. Demonstrate skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations.
3. Undertake self-directed research, and discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives.
4. Construct original, articulate and well-substantiated arguments.
5. Demonstrate understanding of the different literary traditions and movements out of which the literary texts arise, and how these in turn might be articulated within, and interrogative of, broader transnational and hemispheric frameworks.

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