Sample Course Descriptions

Introduction to African American Studies

Using an interdisciplinary lens, this course engages the following questions: What does it mean to be an American? Is nationality a state ascribed at birth that is tied to a specific geographical space; or, is being an American something that we learn and perform? What are the cultural histories of African-descended persons in America and how do such intricacies complicate how we conceptualize our national identity? 

Exploring Controversial Moments in the U.S. Black Social Movement

What does it mean to be free? This course offers an examination some of the most controversial turns in the discourse surrounding the Black social movement in the United States from slavery to the contemporary moment. We will explore various forms of resistance and social thought to attain a sense of the disparate views that Black American leaders and laypersons have held regarding the most sustainable path toward liberty and equality. 

Black Women Writers Imagine the (Global) South

This course considers how race, class, gender, and region intersect in Southern literature written by Black women authors. We will discuss how these writers imagine Black life and social alienation in the (global) South through several genres, including the neo-slave narrative, historical fiction, and speculative fiction. 

Memory, Trauma, and the Trace of Slavery in Black American Literature

This senior-level course is designed to guide students in a semester-long interrogation of cultural production to ascertain why and how the specter of slavery redounds in the contemporary moment. The introduction to the course and to each text will consist of the establishment of a historical foundation, which will be comprised of readings on the transatlantic slavetrade, plantation slavery in America, and the post-Emancipation condition of Black Americans.

What Is/Was Black American Literature?

This graduate course is structured as an examination of Kenneth Warren’s provocative claim that “what we know to be African American literature or black literature is of rather recent vintage” (What Was African American Literature? 1). We will engage in a semester-long, interdisciplinary inquiry that considers the social, political, and economic issues that informed literatures of protest as well as investigate whether the intersectional conditions to which early to mid-twentieth century Black American authors responded indeed ceased to be of pressing concern after the legal defeat of de jure Jim Crow.