Freedom Seekers & Narrative (ENG 240/340)

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Offered under the African American Studies minor, this course will explore narratives that resist social displacement and racial oppression in texts ranging from classic enslavement narratives by Harriet Jacobs to more contemporary black fiction by Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, and others. Moving through multiple genres including poetry, drama, and the novel form, we will investigate the ways in which each narrative configures both freedom and enslavement and critiques the overlapping social, cultural, political, and economic factors that contribute to institutionalized racism. Our course will also thus study how these social critiques are manifested in popular art forms, including 1960s soul music, the comic book Black Panther, the new Marvel series Luke Cage, and the film Dear White People.

Arranged loosely like a chronological survey of African American literature, this course also seeks to be more interdisciplinary in its breadth and its structured assignments. Thus, students who are not English majors might illuminate historical and political insights drawn from our texts in their essays rather than having to apply only the language of literary studies. For example, students will read both standard Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes and Dorothy West alongside the non-fictional memoir Scottsboro Boy, which is a mid-century account of one falsely accused inmate in Alabama. Students will write essays about texts of their choosing from each of the different periods considered in order to articulate how questions of social justice and enslavement are identified, explored, and potentially resolved (or not resolved) in different narrative forms.