Genres, 1890-present: Black Writers & Popular Genres

English 4109/7109
Black Writers & Popular Genres
Section 1
Andrew Hoberek

In a review of Boots Riley’s science-fiction inflected 2018 movie Sorry to Bother You, the Zambian fiction writer Namwali Serpell notes that sometimes the effort to describe something real can produce what seems like the opposite of realism: “To make something utterly literal pushes through to the other side of the real—this is why satire so often bleeds into surrealism, as in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (a working man is a bug).” In this class, we will consider how and why a number of contemporary black writers from around the globe have turned to such popular genres as crime fiction, science fiction, the ghost story, and fantasy. Beginning with Toni Morrison’s Beloved—a highly esteemed work of literary fiction with a ghost story at its heart—and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower—a work by a science fiction writer whose literary merits are only now being recognized—we will read a number of very recent works, including Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, The Serial Killer, slated for publication in November 2018, and Marlon James’s fantasy novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which will be released in February 2019.