Dr. Godfrey 3
In this course, we will examine a broad range of African American poetry from the 18th century to the present day by looking at the way African American Poetry has been defined and selected for publication in major anthologies at key moments in history. Our primary texts will be the following period-defining anthologies: James Weldon Johnson’s groundbreaking 1922 collection, The Book of American Negro Poetry; Dudley Randall’s Black Power-influenced anthology, The Black Poets, from 1971; and the recent Vintage Book of African American Poetry from 2000. Via these anthologies, we will look closely at poems written by well-known and lesser-known African American poets—from Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks to Melvin B. Tolson and Gwendolyn Bennett—to see which poems are used to represent the poet and the race at which times, which poems remain anthologized, which do not, which only start being anthologized at later moments in history, and why. Along the way, we will also examine selections from lesser-known anthologies such as Langston Hughes’ and Arna Bontemps’ unconventional The Poetry of the Negro 1746-1949 (which includes poetry by both white and Caribbean poets); Camille Dungy’s Black Nature (which insists on a long and hitherto unacknowledged history of black nature poetry); Adam Bradley’s Anthology of Rap (which argues that rap must be included within the definition of poetry); and the 2013 Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (which sparked controversy for its apolitical and “post-racial” editorial claims).
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