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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: 21st Century Black American Fiction (ENLI11272)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is a study of contemporary Black American Fiction, deliberately cutting across many genres of narrative fiction in order to help students explore and come to understand the great diversity within this body of writing. The primary texts studied will be both important in themselves, and also as exemplars of important and vibrant generic forms. The course will look at texts across such genres as: historical metafiction, neo-slave narrative, satire, Young Adult fiction, LGBTQ+ fiction, realism, immigrant-experience narrative, and fantasy writing. The course will engage with contemporary issues beyond the immediate primary materials, but closely intertwined with them: these will include BLM, urban and non-urban cultures, the policing of borders, and debates over sexualities.
Course description The twenty-first century has seen Black American writing engage with literary form and socio-political matters in exciting and various ways. The importance of music and musicality, of orality, of historical antecedents such as slave narratives, the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, Black Womanism, the broader Civil Rights Movement, and others, are variously expressed in the writing of our current historical period. On this course we will engage with texts that engage with issues of racial trauma, the struggle for Reparations, attempts to inscribe a so-called post-racial polity on America, the silencing and vocalising of Black voices, and more. The breadth of genres covered, and the differing approaches they invite, will allow students to build a set of different tools with which to approach contemporary Black American and other writing. While the variety and literary force of much nineteenth- and twentieth-century Black American fiction (Brown, Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Morrison et al) is becoming increasingly familiar to students, and to readers more generally, writing of the past twenty or so years is less so. In addition to the issues outlined in the next paragraph, this course looks to investigate and discuss the ways in which contemporary writers have built on, or at times overturned, some of their key literary antecedents. Having said this, students will not be required to have any prior knowledge of Black American writing; the engagement of the contemporary texts with the earlier ones will be articulated from the introductory class onwards, through guided examples from the earlier writers.

Through attention to genre and narrative form, seminar discussions, and assessed work, will look to cover such things as: the colonial construction of race in America and Europe, and its connection to present-day discourses of race; the historical fact of slavery and its ongoing effects; the othering of the migrant in modern America, and its connection to historical othering of Black Americans; the specific experience of young Black girls in a masculinist and racist culture; individual and cultural memory (and re-memory, pace Morrison). The course will be assessed by one pieces of written work: an essay to be completed during the exam period. Preparation for seminars will take the form of a combination of autonomous learning group tasks and individual blog entries, in alternating weeks. The blog entries will be a source of formative feedback and material explored in these short (c.250 word) unassessed pieces can be developed and expanded upon in either of the summative essays. The seminars will primarily involve group discussion of the primary texts and attendant secondary materials, with issues raised in ALGs/blogs addressed as part of this discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct original, clear and coherent critical arguments on contemporary Black American fiction, and its representation and depiction of a variety of issues, ideas, institutions, and social practices
  2. Analyse, and show substantial understanding of, the ways that different fictional genres can be deployed to pose questions around the things mentioned in LO1 above
  3. Read and critically evaluate contemporary Black American fiction through a variety of established and recognised critical and theoretical models, as appropriate to the arguments the student is making
  4. Demonstrate a clear knowledge of some of the ways in which non-literary cultural modes might be brought to bear in helping understand the fiction under study, and vice versa
Reading List
Edward P. Jones, The Known World, 2004
Colson Whitehead, Apex Hides the Hurt, 2006
Toni Morrison, A Mercy, 2008
Teju Cole, Open City, 2011
Paul Beatty, The Sellout, 2015
Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing, 2016
Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn, 2016
Rivers Solomon, The Deep, 2019
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer, 2019
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students on this course will enhance their graduate attributes such as: communication skills, spoken and written; ability to listen and engage with differing viewpoints; ability to incorporate ideas from a different culture than their own into their worldview; ability to synthesize differing forms of representation into a coherent understanding; ability to engage with issues of global importance.
Course organiserDr Keith Hughes
Tel: (0131 6)50 3048
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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