Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
African-American Literature
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 Hours x 2 hours.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 essays (2,500 words each)  Essay:  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements 

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate knowledge of a range of African American Literatureith reference to cultural and historical context;

2. identify genres within the scope of African American Literature with a particular emphasis on women'r fiction and black drama;

3. describe the development of the novel from 19th century slave-narratives;

4. articulate the impact on African American Fiction and drama of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s;

5. read literary texts in an informed and critical manner;

6. engage in coherent oral discussion of the texts and their contexts;

7. write about the subject in a well-structured and argued manner with reference to cultural and historical context.

Brief description

The main goals of this module are to offer students a general introduction to the broad range of African-American Literature, and to place emphasis on particular genres within it, such as the recently celebrated women's fiction and the often neglected black drama. The module has to be very selective and to work within the constraints of what is in print and realistically priced, but I have designed it to focus on particular issues, such as the development of the novel from nineteenth-century slave-narratives, and the impact on African American fiction and drama of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.



_Seminar 1: Introduction: Slave narratives; lyrics of early blues and spirituals

  • Required reading: Helena Grice et al, Beginning Ethnic American Literatures, chapters 1+2; Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of An American Slave (1845)
  • Optional further reading: Paul Oliver, The Story of the Blues; Screening the Blues; James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912); Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in Heath Anthology of American Literature Vol. 1
_Seminar 2: Black Women's Fiction I

  • Required reading: Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (1939)
  • Optional further reading: Hurston, Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Dust Tracks on A Road (1942), Mules and Men (1935);
  • Video: African America in The Great Depression
_Seminar 3: From Autobiography to Allegory and Satire I

  • Required reading: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • Optional further reading: Going to the Territory (1984)
_Seminar 4: From Autobiography to Allegory and Satire II

  • Required reading: Invisible Man, contd.;
  • Optional further reading: Ellison, Shadow and Act (essays) (1967); Richard Wright, Native Son (1940); Black Boy and American Hunger (1944)
_Seminar 5: Black Drama I
  • Required reading: James Baldwin, The Amen Corner (1955, 1965)
  • Optional further reading: Baldwin, Go Tell It On The Mountain (1954); Blues for Mister Charlie (1964); The Fire Next Time (1963)
_Seminar 6. Black Drama II
  • Required reading: Leroi Jones, Dutchman (1964); August Wilson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984)
  • Optional further reading: Alice Childress, Wine in the Wilderness (1968); Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959); Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1969); August Wilson, Fences (1985); Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1987); The Piano Lesson (1990); Two Trains Running (1992)
  • Suggested Viewing: Spike Lee (Dir.) Do The Right Thing; Malcolm X
_Seminar 7: Black Women's Fiction II

  • Required reading: Alice Walker, Meridian (1976)
  • Optional further reading and viewing: Walker, Living by the Word (1988); Paule Marshall, Praise-Song for the Widow (1983); Anniversary broadcasts for Martin Luther King; The Words of Martin Luther King (1983); selected chapters from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
_Seminar 8: Black Women's Fiction III
  • Required reading: Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Optional further reading: Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987); Jazz (1992) (there are also video and audio resources available)
_Seminar 9: Black Women's Fiction IV
  • Required reading: Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place (1982)
  • Optional further reading: Gloria Naylor, Linden Hills (1985); Thulani Davies (1959): A Novel (1992)
_Seminar 10: Black Women's Fiction V
  • Required Reading: Terry McMillan, Waiting to Exhale (1995) [+ film showing]

Reading List

Should Be Purchased
Alice Walker (1997) Meridian Women's Press Primo search August Wilson (1985) Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Penguin USA Primo search Frederick Douglass (1982) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself Penguin Primo search Gloria Naylor (1990) The Women of Brewster Place Minerva Primo search Helena Grice et al. (2001) Beginning Ethnic American Literatures Manchester UP Primo search James Baldwin (1991) The Amen Corner Penguin Primo search Leroi Jones (1971) Dutchman and The Slave: Two Plays William Morrow Primo search Ralph Ellison (1965) Invisible Man Penguin Primo search Terry McMillan (1995) Waiting to Exhale Black Swan Primo search Toni Morrison (1998) Song of Solomon Vintage Primo search Zora Neale Hurston (1986) Their Eyes Were Watching God Virago Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6