Black Studies in Culture: Writing Early Black Women's Spiritual Identity

English 1300
Writing Early Black Women's Spiritual Identity
Section 1
April Langley

Cross-listed as BLSTU 1705 and WGST 1005.

This course introduces students to the political, cultural, and historical aspects of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black women's spiritual identity, and they ways in which they defined "spirituality" and "religion." It does so by exploring the origins of black women's religious and other worldly voices and experiences, through readings in various genres of literature and orature from history, literary criticism and theory to spiritual autobiography, political treatise, speeches, sermons, memoirs, letters and journals. Important: this course addresses specific goals of the Diversity Initiative (DI) requirement by not only considering the different, class, caste, and cultural conditions under which these black women reveal their works and the significant role that spirituality played in the development of their intersecting social, political, and religious worlds, and by extension early black women's literature. We also examine closely how their autobiographical writing, sermons, and herstories enable a more complex understanding of this genre of black women’s writing—one that reflects the extent to which black women articulated their progress and empowerment and simultaneously challenged class conflicts, as well as patriarchal and racial limitations and oppression in terms of their faith. Importantly, the challenges they articulate are neither monolithic, nor can they be analyzed within limited myopic frameworks of “race/gender” or “caste/class.” Rather, we examine their lives, works, and social inequalities reflected in their different spiritual “callings” through intersecting and transdisciplinary literary criticism and theory.