African American Literature to 1945
Zora Neale Hurston, Cover of Dust Tracks on a Road
In this course, we will engage with African American literature from its beginnings during slavery to the Reconstruction period before encountering the New Negro Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance. We will cover genres such as poetry and the vernacular; nonfiction to include slave narratives, memoir, and speeches; short fiction and the novel; and we will engage the attendant cultural and literary criticism and theory. We will consider the ways that early African American literature reflects migration as much as bondage, and innovation as much as influence, and the fact of literary community among free and enslaved black peoples in the colonies and the United States. We will see African American literature as it coheres into a tradition that is highly allusive, rife with signification, pastiche, and call and response, and inflected with gendered, classed, and nationalist implications. We will understand African American people as belonging to heterogeneous communities whose concerns, political and artistic, reflect various responses to the cultural moments of particular historical time periods and geographical locations.
Grit Lit: Tracing the Dirty and Ugly from the New South to the Rough South
“So what’s Grit Lit? It’s the dirty South seen without romanticism or the false nostalgia of Gone with the Wind fans . . . the South as it really is, not moonlight and magnolia, but grit in your workboots, especially if it’s a
steeltoe with the leather so worn at the toe that the metal shows, the same peeling boot staggering out of a bar after screwing things up for the night.” ~ Tom Franklin
This is not your mama’s Southern literature! Who are the Southerners of Grit Lit? What memories do they carry, or struggle under? What does work look like, landscape and love, violence and death? We’ll sink our teeth into the tough, trashy, and grotesque in 20th and 21st century Southern lit, investigating the thematic and stylistic influence of the New South on the working-class memoirs, short fiction, and novels of the Rough South.
Contested Spaces: Place and Space in Modern American Literature
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s State Names I
In this course, we will explore representations of place and space in modern American literature. American space has been defined, redefined, and contested from its beginnings; this fact informed Mary Louise Pratt’s conception of the “contact zone,” where Europeans encountered Native Americans who had populated the continent long before their arrival. The creation of colonial, regional, continental, and transnational borders and borderlands regions followed as Westward expansion gained steam and later the U.S. government annexed various territories. American literature is a reflection of the many cultures, histories, and people who live and move within and across the United States and its territories, and this semester, we will encounter fiction, drama, poetry, and nonfiction, including life writing and essays addressing contested space. We will consider spaces that range from the domestic, the private, to public city and natural locations, and places that range from local, to regional, to transnational, from the imagined to the real. We will think about places that are officially recognized and those that are “underground” and read old spaces in new ways. We will consider the future spaces that are in the making now.
Early American Literature Beginnings to 1865
“North America 1650” Loyola University of Chicago
This course will serve as an intensive introduction to the history of American literature, from its beginnings to 1865. The purpose of this class will be to familiarize you with the major works, themes, and ideas that shaped the American literary canon. But as much as this is a course about literature, it is a course about the American past, and the construction of American identities. Who were the first colonists? What did they believe? What happened during the founding of the nation? How much influence have the Puritans had on current American habits of being? What place have native peoples played in the formation of the nation state? How did early Americans feel about the rights of women? What did abolitionists have to say about the rights of man? We’ll turn our attention to not only works of fiction, but to religious texts, autobiographies, letters, epistles, primers, speeches, political documents, treaties, and elegies. We will take a hard look at the ways in which the American nation-state was founded, by examining the consequences of imperialism, colonialism, slavery, genocide, and the oppression of women. Our purpose here is not to vilify those early
Americans, but to come to a better understanding of their attitudes, habits of being, circumstances, and morals.