Introduction to African Diaspora Literature

English 2400
Theorizing Africana Literature
Section 1
Clenora Hudson-Weems
Arts & Science 233

Theorizing Africana Literature is an undergraduate course designed to introduce students to 20th and 21st Centuries Africana Literature and Theory.  As indicated in the major text, Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition, the turn of the 20th century in the African literary world is marked by the WEB DuBois and Booker T Washington Controversy, along with Marcus Garvey, which ushered us into the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  Major poets of that era include James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, followed by the WEB DuBois-Alain Locke Debate of the 30s.  The cultural and literary debates of the searing 60s, following the Renaissance/Post Renaissance, the precursor, was ignited by the true catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1955 brutal lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a cause célèbre that today’s national massive murders of Blacks mirror. Till’s incident was followed by Rosa Parks’ demonstration and Dr. Martin Luther King’s leadership in the 1956 year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, traditionally construed as the inception of the Movement, for which the Till incident set the stage.  In understanding the Movement, we look at its sister, the Black Arts/Black Aesthetics Movement, with its prime movers, Amiri Baraka & Larry Neale. William E. Nelson, Jr.’s “Africology:  From Social Movement to Academic Discipline” is key in bringing these two Movements together. Today, “Black Lives Matter, TOO” continues the aborted Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and the 60s & will be discussed. The 70s continued the Movement of the 60s, with the theorizing of Black Aesthetician Richard Barksdale, while the 80s ushered in Molefi Asante’s Afrocenticity. The latter part of the 20th and the early 21st centuries highlight the Africana literary & theoretical works of several Africana theorists, including Robert L. Williams-- Ebonics & Maulana Karenga--7 Principles & Kwanzaa. Finally, there are several Africana women theorists, including chief black feminists Barbara Smith & bell hooks, & Africana Womanist Hudson-Weems, who set forth literary theories as tools of analysis for Black writers.

The focus on the mid and latter part of the 20th century and the early 21st century will highlight the Africana literary and theoretical works of several known Africana theorists listed above, with contributions of major Africana theorists appearing in the other major text, Contemporary Africana Theory, Thought and Action: A Guide to Africana Studies.  The culminating two (2) Africana novels, Toni Morrison’s Home and Hudson-Weems’ Emmett—Legacy, Redemption and Forgiveness are also seminal works.

The main objective of the course is to introduce students to Africana literature and Africana theoretical constructs as an authentic way of interpreting Africana texts in order to accurately put those texts within the constructs of our everyday lives.

This course is cross listed with Black Studies 2400.