ENGL 381 Spring 2013 Black Modernisms and the Great Migration

Cross Listed as AFR380, AMST381
Courses on "the Harlem Renaissance" have long been standard fare in college curricula, but this rubric is too narrow to encompass the dramatic changes in early 20th century African American culture that made possible the careers of writers like Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. Instead, we'll begin with a question: how did the term "urban" became a euphemism for African American culture? A hundred years ago, many informed commentators scorned the notion that African American populations might become other than what they had been for centuries--overwhelmingly rural and Southern. The massive social phenomenon that changed this status, by which millions of impoverished workers sought new lives in the industrial cities of the North, Midwest, and West Coast, is arguably the most significant event in African American history in the 20th century, and has become known as "the Great Migration." (Or, the "Great Migrations"--scholars like to pluralize everything these days--it's complicated!) "Black modernisms" should take the plural, too: as we'll see, the concept of modernism in Euro-American culture depended on a racialized theory of history and civilization that consigned people of color to the past (or, occasionally, the future), even as it was irrevocably shaped by influences of, appropriations from, and collaboration with peoples of color who saw modernity as a chance they were determined to claim for themselves. What became known as "the Harlem Renaissance" was the most famous U.S. example of such a cultural movement, but we'll explore it in a longer and more aesthetically, politically, and regionally diverse context. The artists and critics we'll examine, in addition to those mentioned above, may include Hubert Harrison, Jean Toomer, Marita Bonner, Richard Bruce Nugent, Bessie Smith, Richard Wright, David Levering Lewis, Cheryl Wall, and Brent Hayes Edwards.
Class Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, frequent short writing assignments, a midterm take-home exam, and a final project
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Prerequisites: a 100-level English course, or a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in English Literature or a 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preference: English majors and Africana Studies concentrators
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Distribution Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under ENGL; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under AMST or AFR
Divisional Attributes: Division I
Other Attributes: AFR Interdepartmental Electives,AMST Arts in Context Electives,AMST Comp Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Diaspora
Enrollment Limit: 15
Expected Enrollment: 15
Class Number: 3620
ENGL381-01(S) SEM Blk Modernisms&Great Migration Division 1: Languages and the Arts Vincent J. Schleitwiler
MR 2:35 PM-3:50 PM 62CtrThea&Dance Seminar Rm 167 3620
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