Signifyin’ African-American Literature
DozentIn: Jatin Wagle
Zeiten: Do. 14:00 - 16:00 (wöchentlich)
Beschreibung: “Signifyin(g),” according to Henry Louis Gates (2004), refers to a trickster figure from African-American folklore, the signifying monkey, and describes practices and performances that have been integral to African-American cultural expression. In other words, “signifyin(g)” and “specifyin(g)” are language and cultural usages that are figurative, connotative, ironic, and oftentimes critical and playful at one and the same time. The language of implication, indirection and paradox plays on the differences or even contrasts between what is said and what is meant, and thus, is not readily accessible to those unfamiliar with the cultural codes at play within the African-American communities. As far as the African-American literary traditions are concerned, signifying practices also entail a multitude of genres, forms and modes, such as, parody, pastiche, and humor. In this seminar in American Studies, we will explore and engage with some of the salient aspects of such writings by reading a selection of narrative and poetic texts written by a diverse body of black authors from the mid-nineteenth to the early twenty-first century.
Please note that this course will take up more than a few primary texts that might be viewed as offensive by some readers, especially because of their racially explicit vocabulary and imagery. Needless to state that this should not be seen as an attempt at normalizing racist epithets or attitudes, but on the contrary as an opportunity to appreciate and examine writings that tackle and critique the murky realities of racism with the multivalent strategies of signifying.
In order to take and enjoy this class, you should be willing to read, analyze, and discuss analytical and literary texts. Please note that this seminar can be taken as either a Literary Studies or a Cultural Studies course. Furthermore, it is recommended for fourth and fifth semester students of English and American Studies, as it builds on students’ sound awareness and understanding of critical approaches to the study of literature.
Please procure and read the following two novels if you wish to participate in this course:
Ralph Ellison, _Invisible Man_ (1952) [Penguin edition, 2014, ISBN: 978-0241970560]
Paul Beatty, _The White Boy Shuffle_ (1996) [Oneworld edition, 2017, ISBN: 978-1786072252]
Other required readings with a tentative schedule will be made available online on Stud.IP before our first class. Please check the course webpages on Stud.IP regularly for updates, announcements, and changes.
Prerequisites for participation: B1 module
1. Regular attendance, homework and active participation in classroom presentations and discussions. If you skip a session, it will be your responsibility to follow up on the course contents and allotted tasks.
2. ALL course participants MUST read EACH of the texts being discussed in the class carefully and prepare their notes or questions diligently.
3. A small group of participants will introduce the reading(s) allotted for the session in the form of a short presentation, while the rest of the participants will post a question/remark/comment on the relevant wiki set up for the purpose.
Requirements for grade: All of the above, and a seminar paper (approx. 4500 words). Further instructions in this regard will be provided after the first half of the course is over.
This course shares requirements and guidelines with the other American Studies courses taught at IfAA. The “American Studies Tool Kit” in the Stud.IP “Files” section outlines these requirements and guidelines. Please see the “Guidelines for Seminar Papers” for information on the formal requirements for the final paper. The “Abbreviations Key” and “Grading Rubric” are used in the grading and feedback process and will enable you to better judge your own paper even before handing it in.