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

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR SA Grattan




Not available as wild



This module will bring together works of poetry and fiction by a number of black writers in the USA and Canada in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With a particular emphasis on migration, music, and urban space, we will explore the intellectual, political, and aesthetic imperatives that drive these writers to address questions of race, ethnicity, gender, belonging, representation, poverty, privilege, and trauma.
Beginning in Harlem in the 1920s, the moment when “the Negro was in vogue”, students will examine the ways in which black Americans and Canadians have sought to make their impact on the literary landscape, by turns exposing and employing the power structures of the dominant culture. This comparative look at US and Canadian literatures, however, also challenges students to scrutinize the construction of literary and other categories, and to consider the commonality and distinctive difference between black experience north and south of the 49th parallel.
Lectures/workshops will emphasise discussion of key moments and movements in African American / African Canadian arts; the significance of linguistic distinctiveness; the cultural self-categorisation of black, African American, Africadian and Halfrican identities; and the rise of African American literary theory.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Ten one-hour lecture/workshops and ten two-hour seminars

Method of assessment

100% coursework: 90% two 3000-word essays (45% each), 10% seminar performance

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)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• Students will learn to 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.
• Gain an understanding of the different historical and literary trajectories of African Americans in the US, Canada, and to a lesser degree, the Caribbean.
• Be able to interpret and apply a range of theoretical, aesthetic, and rhetorical concepts in African American and African Canadian writing.
• 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).
• Further develop the capacity to structure nuanced arguments centred on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in literature.

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• An ability to apply close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and to make complex comparisons between them.
• Development of the skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations.
• An increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives.
• An ability to construct original, articulate and well-substantiated arguments.
• Gain a sufficient 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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