Seminar in African Diaspora Literature: New Black Iconoclasm

English 8400
New Black Iconoclasm
Section 1
Sheri-Marie Harrison

Kenneth Warren’s provocative claim that “the collective enterprise we know as African American literature or black literature is of rather recent vintage,” serves as a point of departure for this seminar’s inquiry into contemporary African Diasporic prose fiction (What Was African American Literature 1). What (if anything) does Warren’s assertion of the past-ness of African American Literature offer us for understanding African Diasporic texts? What (if any) are the social, political, and economic impetuses and imperatives of the current moment in race-based writing and literary studies? From Marlon James’ graphically violent prose to Helen Oyeyemi’s bewildering narratives to Mat Johnson’s irreverent satire, contemporary African Diasporic fiction often does not look like what we have come to expect, both in form and in politics, from the tradition. In this seminar, we will examine authors and texts that are puzzling in their sometimes-irreverent rejection of the beliefs, institutions, and practices normalized in African diasporic discourses. Paying close attention to both the formal structures and the socio-historical, cultural, political, and intellectual backdrops of African diasporic literary studies, we will work towards a comprehensive understanding of the contemporary moment in African diasporic literature. Along with active participation in the seminar's discussion, this seminar's coursework includes a seminar paper, seminar paper proposal, abstract, and oral presentations. 

Tentative Reading List

Beatty, The Sellout and White Boy Shuffle

Bulawayo, We Need New Names

Clemmons, What We Lose

Everett, Erasure 

James, The Book of Night Women and John Crow’s Devil

Jones, The Known World

Johnson, Pym

Machado, Her Body and Other Parties

Oyeymi, Mr Fox and What is Yours is Not Yours

Senna, Symptomatic and New People