Race and the Politics of Fiction: The Modern African American Novel
DozentIn: Jatin Wagle, M.A.
Zeiten: Di. 14:00 - 16:00 (wöchentlich)
Beschreibung: This is a course in American Studies and intends to explore some of the key developments in the early and mid-twentieth century African American narrative fiction. Since its emergence in the late 1920s in the wake of the Harlem Renaissance and through its development over the 1940s and the early 1950s, the modern African American novel addressed the politics of race that characterized the American nation in this era. As Kenneth W. Warren puts it, African American literature from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century can be considered as a response to a “social world defined by the system of Jim Crow segregation” (_What Was African American Literature?_, 2011). However, debates regarding the role of narrative fiction vis-à-vis politics in general and black political struggle in particular intensified during the first half of the twentieth century. In this seminar, we will engage with some of these questions regarding both the formal and substantive facets of the modern African American novel, for instance, its relationship with realist and naturalist aesthetics and with what James Baldwin called “everybody’s protest novel” (1949), as also its ability to represent the diversity of black experience, and its complicated relationship with the politics of gender. Apart from examining these issues with the aid of relevant literary-historical and analytical literature, we will take up the following novels for their intensive and exemplary discussion:
Nella Larsen, _Passing_ (1929) [Norton Critical edition, 2008, ISBN: 978-0393979169; this is a good but somewhat expensive edition. Scanned version of the original Alfred A. Knopf edition (1929) available online, albeit without the critical material: https://archive.org/details/passing00lars ]
Richard Wright, _Native Son_ (1940) [Vintage Classic edition, 2000, ISBN: 978-0099282938]
James Baldwin, _Go Tell It on the Mountain_ (1953) [Vintage edition, 2013, ISBN: 978-0345806543)
In order to take and enjoy this class, you should be willing to read, analyze, and discuss both narrative fiction and analytical texts. Please read the above-mentioned novels in preparation for the seminar, since we will analyze and discuss them in detail during our course. Please note that this seminar is recommended for fourth and fifth semester students of English and American Studies, since it builds on students’ sound awareness and understanding of critical and narrative approaches to fiction.
The 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 and active participation in classroom discussions and group work.
2. Please note that this course can be taken as either a Literary Studies or a Cultural Studies course.
3. All course participants will need to read each of the texts being discussed in the class carefully and prepare their notes or answers diligently in terms of the relevant questions.
4. If you do not engage with the allotted texts and participate actively in classroom discussions, you will be asked to sign out of the course.
Requirements for grade: All of the above, and a seminar paper (approx. 4000 words). Further instructions in this regard will be provided after the first half of the course is over.