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EN3303 African American Literature

Summer Reading List


Course Tutor: Prof. Tim Armstrong

Primary Texts

The set text is the Norton Anthology of African American Literature (you should buy this as soon as possible).  It is expensive, but contains a number of the texts studied (marked N below).  In addition, the Norton will enable you to read widely in the tradition, and has many relevant critical essays.

We recommend that you read one or two of the longer novels studied in the second term (Native Son, Another Country, Invisible Man,and Beloved) over the summer.

Primary Texts for the First Term:

  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) (incomplete in the Norton) N [full edn. is 808.89896 BL]
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1845) N
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (incomplete in the Norton)  (1861, Harvard) [326.0973 JAC]
  • Charles Chestnutt’s trickster stories (incomplete in the Norton) N
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903) (incomplete in the Norton) N
  • James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912, Penguin) N
  • Poets and critics of the Harlem Renaissance N
  • Jean Toomer, Cane (1923, Norton) N (incomplete in the Norton)
  • Nella Larsen, Passing (1929, Serpent’s Tail)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937, Virago) [825 HUR]

Primary Texts for the Second Term:

  • Richard Wright, Native Son (1940, Harper Collins or Picador) [815 WRI]
  • Ann Petry, The Street (1946, Houghton)
  • Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959, Methuen) [815 HAN]
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952, Penguin) [815 ELL]
  • James Baldwin, Another Country (1962, various edns.) [815 BAL]
  • Black Arts: Gwendolen Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, poems & play
  • Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1983, Women’s Press) [815 WAL]
  • Τoni Morrison, Beloved (1985, Picador) [815 MOR]
  • Octavia Butler, Dawn (1987, vol. 1 of her trilogy Lilith’s Brood, Aspects)

Music and Poetry:

You should listen to the disc that comes with the Norton, which offers a selection from the tradition (ballads, spirituals, work-songs, blues, jazz, gospel, rap, and speeches and toasts).  Any other music from the tradition will help, particularly music referred to in texts (e.g. Another Country references recordings by Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson).  The poems of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and so forth are available in online recordings.

Preliminary Reading: Secondary Texts:

  • Andrews, W. L., et al. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997)
  • Awkward, Michael, Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Revision and the Afro-American Women Novelists (1989) [825.399289 AWK]
  • Baker, Houston, Blues, Ideology and Afro-American Literature (1984) [810.9352 BAK]
  • Braxton, J., ed., Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance (1990) [810.99287 WIL]
  • Callahan, John, In the Afro-American Grain (1988) [815.3 CAL]
  • Carby, Hazel, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (1987) [815.33 CAR]
  • Cook, M., Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century (1984) [815.9896 COO]
  • Dickson, Bruce, Black American Writing from the Nadir: The Evolution of a Literary Tradition 1877-1915 (1989)
  • Douglas, Ann, Terrible Honesty: Mongerel Manhattan in the Twenties (1995)
  • Gates, Henry Louis, The Signifying Monkey (1988) [810.9 GAT]
  • Hutchinson, George, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White (1995) [815.9352 HUT]
  • Mitchell, Angelyn, ed., Within the Circle: An Anthology of African-American Literary Criticism From the Harlem Renaissance to the Present (1994) [810.9352 WIT]
  • Sudquist, Eric J., To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (1993) [825.9896 SUN]
  • Steptoe, Robert, From Behind the Veil: A Study of African-American Narrative (1979) [810.9352 STE]
  • Willis, Susan, Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience (1987) [815.399278 WIL]

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