CAAS 558 - Seminar in Black World Studies
Section: 001 Redesigning the House that Race Built: Issues in African American Literary and Cultural Studies, 1950-Present
Term: FA 2008
Subject: Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS)
Department: LSA Afroamerican and African Studies
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing or permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

In describing her role as a writer, Toni Morrison has stated, “I knew from the very beginning, if I had to live in a racial house, it was important, at the least, to rebuild it so that it was not a windowless prison into which I was forced . . . but rather an open house, grounded, yet generous in its supply of windows and doors” (“Home,” four). From Ralph Ellisons' Invisible Man, to contemporary urban fiction by Nikki Turner and Noire, this course will explore the myriad ways in which African American novelists and literary critics have attempted to redesign the house that race built. Focusing on African American fiction published from 1950 to the present, we’ll situate our readings in relation to theoretical debates that have shaped literary and cultural studies over the last sixty years.

Questions such as the following will shape our inquiries: In what ways do various texts unsettle or reify categories such as “African American,” “American,” “blackness,” “authenticity,” “identity,” and “culture”? In what ways might fictional texts function as forms of theory? How do particular works contribute to long-standing debates about the relationship between aesthetics and politics, and the relationship between history and narrative? In what ways do literary texts participate in ongoing debates about feminist and gender studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory? How do fictional texts speak to theoretical debates about diasporic studies, Afrocentrism, critical multiculturalism, postcolonial studies, and the “new” American Studies? In what ways do fictional texts engage with the concerns of critical race studies, critical race feminisms, and whiteness studies? How do African American theoretical and literary texts complement, complicate, and/or challenge dominant Euro-American theoretical paradigms? What are points of intersection and tension between various theoretical paradigms? How might we interpret contemporary trends in African American book publishing? Finally, how has the marketing of African American literature and culture affected the production and reception of various works?

Fictional texts by some of the following authors will form the core of our weekly readings: Ralph Ellison, Gayl Jones, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, Paul Beatty, Randall Kenan, Melvin Dixon, Carolivia Herron, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Michelle Cliff, Percival Everett, Pearl Cleage, Nikki Turner, and Noire.

CAAS 558 - Seminar in Black World Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
M 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Note: Section 001: Meets with Eng 851
002 (SEM)
WF 3:00PM - 4:30PM
Note: Section 002: Meets with Musicol 650.001
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