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African American Literature: An Introduction

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This lecture gives an overview of key writings by black American authors, beginning with the slave narratives of the mid-nineteenth century and ending with Jesmyn Ward’s acclaimed 2017 novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. We will think about the historical forces (such as segregation and the Civil Rights Movement) that have shaped African American texts, and about how these texts in turn have shaped public opinion and have influenced real life events.

Optional further reading: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845 – available as a free e-book on Gutenberg books; or Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

This lecture is the second of Roynon’s three-lecture American Literature series. It also includes a downloadable handout.