American Literature II


Duke Ellington playing the Cotton Club. Raccoon coats, Stutz Bearcats, and militant Garveyites parading down Lenox Avenue. Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston exchanging quips at the Dark Tower salon. These are the some of the best-remembered scenes of the Harlem Renaissance, a movement of African American artists--literary, musical, and visual--who personified the "New Negro" and transformed uptown Manhattan into an international headquarters of Black intellectual life in the 1920s. This class will reexamine Harlem's modernizing rebirth on the centennial of some of its earliest productions, exploring the intricate histories behind the iconic images. We'll study poems, stories, novels, and essays by a varied group of writers (Hughes, Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jesse Fauset, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown) and their debts to a number of pioneering jazz and blues musicians (Ellington, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller) and influential visual artists (Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Bennett). We'll learn about these figures' visions of the Great Migration and the Black Metropolis, racial pride and racial passing, Jazz Age sexuality and respectable secrecy, avant-garde experiments and modernist primitivisms. Finally, we'll sample some of the most important recent chapters in Harlem Renaissance scholarship, from studies of the movement's American cultural nationalism (George Hutchinson), to theories of its international links to Black diasporan travel and translation (Brent Hayes Edwards and Michelle Stephens), to intimate histories of the everyday Afro-modernism of "riotous Black girls, troublesome women, and queer radicals" (Saidiya Hartman). Satisfies the Twentieth Century and later requirement. This course may fulfill the global or minority literatures requirement for students who declare an English major in the fall 2021 semester and beyond.
Course Attributes: EN H; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; EL TC; EL GML