Dr. Godfrey 3
In this course, we will consider a series of stylistic innovations in the African American novel—from sentimentalism, realism, and naturalism to modernism, postmodernism, and gothic—by asking how and in what way these genres do political work. What kinds of political claims does each genre make possible? What kinds of claims do they sacrifice? How does each novel respond to the innovations of earlier novels? How do they expand or complicate typical accounts of generic differences? What do representations of race have to do with each writer’s engagement and/or disengagement with different novelistic genres? To answer these questions, we will pair major African American novels in each genre with introductory material on that genre and critical articles that query and complicate our sense of each novel’s style. Authors will include Charles Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. We will conclude the course with a recent book—Percival Everett’s Erasure—that dramatizes many of these conflicts we will be considering while making stylistic innovations of its own.
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