Spring 2022 Undergraduate English Courses

358:445 Seminar: Black Literature and Culture: City Narratives

01  TTH5  3:50-5:10 pm   CAC   08269   OWENS   MU-211

 City Narratives

This course considers depictions of urban life in contemporary African American literature. Reading novels, poems, and critical essays, we will explore shifting ideas about identity, community, and culture in the urban landscape. Depictions of cities in black literature have ranged from jubilant to apocalyptic. Writers explore vibrant cultural exchange as well as conflict across race, gender and class. Forming a vital backdrop for our discussion are major historical changes that transformed black communities near the turn of the 21st century: The migration of black Americans to urban areas, technological advances that simultaneously promote togetherness and distance, and the increased commodification of cultural forms such as jazz and hip hop. What do these increasingly postmodern conditions signal for black writers? Is the city a beacon of hope or a site of urban decay? What tools does one need to navigate it? Finally, if the term “black community” has now been called into question, what new models of collectivity does this literature imagine? Coursework will include close reading assignments, papers and creative projects. Virtual "field trips" will be scheduled.