This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2016-2017

ENGL 13186-6: Scoundscapes of Africa-American Literature

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Instructor: Jarvis McInnis

Historically denied the right to literacy and education, African-Americans have utilized sound, primarily in the form of music and orature, as a mode of protest and an expression of freedom, subjectivity, and citizenship. This course explores the rich interplay between sound and literature in nineteenth and twentieth-century African-American letters, particularly how African-American writers have drawn on this rich sonic tradition to make political claims about race, gender, class, region, nation, and cultural identity. While many of the readings feature music, we will also attend to other modes of sonic expression - such as laughter, oratory, screams, yells, shouts, grunts, and noise - to think more expansively about the multiplicity of sounds that emanate from black literature and their various cultural and political connotations. We will read seminal works by Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Gayl Jones, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Paul Beatty, among others. Readings will often be accompanied by sound recordings, ranging from early minstrel and vaudeville ditties to speeches, work songs, blues, jazz, gospel, spoken word poetry, and hip hop. As such, practices of critical listening and audition will figure centrally in our discussions. Some of the concerns we will take up include: How does sound function as a hermeneutic for analyzing African-American literature? How have black writers adapted literary form to mirror musical forms and vice-versa? How does the African American literary tradition rupture the putative binary between orality and literacy? What is the relationship between sound, the body, and subjectivity? How has sound recording technology impacted the way that we hear racial identity? Assignments may include: 1 group presentation, 2 short papers, and 1 longer final paper