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ENGL 3810 Literary Explorations of Racism and Justice

candid photo of james baldwin in front of statue

Catalog Description

Prerequisites: Completion of Blocks A and B4, an additional course from Block B, and at least one course each from Blocks C and D. Analysis of the literary depiction of racism and justice, with emphasis on the treatment of civil rights issues in fiction, drama, and poetry. UD GE C; (re)

Course Description

In this class, students will engage in analysis of texts written by and about people of color, learning how literary techniques are employed for communal, empathetic, and political purposes.  Through this literary framework, students will gain insight into the ways in which various groups have confronted the experience of racial injustice within an intersectional context, developing a theoretical and practical understanding of the intersecting factors including, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and religion.  In the process of analyzing these differing intracultural and intercultural experiences, students will develop an understanding of race as a social construction with real and enduring sociopolitical significance.  Finally, in the process of analyzing literary texts, students will develop an understanding of various models for participating in cross-cultural, diverse communities.

Course Outline

Course content might be organized in a number of ways; listed below is one possible method of organizing the course.

  1. Understanding Race and Racism in Literature by reading and writing critically.
  2. Introductions to Central Concepts: W.E.B. Dubois and “Double Consciousness” or “Dual Identity”, race as a veil, the use of multiple genres and the presentation of the color line as the central issue of the 20th and 21st Century)
  3. Slave Narratives Excerpts from My Bondage and My Freedom by Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Beecher’s Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  4. Exploring the Harlem Renaissance impact.  Various Authors including: Countee Cullen’s “The Incident” Poem, various Langston Hughes works, and Zora Neale Hurston
  5. Richard Wright Introductions to novels as form: Urban Poverty, Crime, and injustice.  Native Son reading
  6. Racist Love?  The Model Minority Myth and Multiculturalism (Frank Chin, Paul Beatty, Chang-Rae Lee)
  7. Restorative and Retributive Justice (Sherman Alexie, Jimmy Santiago Baca, June Jordan, Octavia Butler)
  8. Gillan and Gillan Unsettling America an Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry or volumes of poetry will demonstrate the political power of poetic texts.
  9. Cry, the Beloved Country or Mister Johnson comparing civil rights issues in Africa to America.
  10. Examining Racism in the 1950’s in America. James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on The Mountain  or Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN
  11. 1960’s Comparing and contrasting different viewpoints during the civil rights movement in America.      Juxtaposing The Autobiography of Malcolm X   to  King’s Why We Can’t Wait
  12. Protest Literature:  Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door  and Amiri Baraka’s THE DUTCHMAN
  13. Exploring contemporary Black Woman Authors and the issues of Racism and Sexism in their works. Selected works from various authors: Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children need traveling Shoes, and selected poems from Nikki Giovanni.
  14. Contemporary Black Male Authors dealing with issues of Race and Racism in literature. Excerpts from: Walter Mosley’s, Mel Donalson, Malcolm Gladwell, MK Asante, and various others.
  15. Watch Author Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk that deals with the Dangers of defining whole groups of People by a “Single Story”. Discuss how this concept relates to some literature and the formation of stereotypes.

About the Banner: "Baldwin with Shakespeare," photograph by Allan Warren (image from