Seminar: American Literature


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 from the late nineteen-teens to the early nineteen-thirties. This graduate seminar will reexamine Harlem's self-modernizing rebirth on the centennial of Jean Toomer's "Cane" (1923), the movement's most treasured text, exploring the intricate histories behind the iconic images. We'll study poems, stories, novels, essays, and memoirs by a varied group of writers (Hughes, Hurston, Toomer, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jesse Fauset, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Sterling Brown) and their collective debt to pioneering jazz and blues musicians (Ellington, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller) and scene-setting visual artists (Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Bennett). We'll compare 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 (David Levering Lewis and George Hutchinson), to theories of its channels to Black diasporan travel and translation (Brent Hayes Edwards and Michelle Stephens), to intimate archival histories of the everyday Afro-modernisms of "riotous Black girls, troublesome women, and queer radicals" (Saidiya Hartman and Daphne Brooks). As a whole, the class aims to provide graduate students with an advanced introduction to African American aesthetic modernism as it was lived, represented, an
Course Attributes:

Section 01

Seminar: American Literature
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