Presentation on theme: "African American Literature and Its International Influence Introductory Lecture 1/19/10."— Presentation transcript:
African American Literature and Its International Influence Introductory Lecture 1/19/10
Course Narrative and Goals The class will examine canonical African American literary works in terms of their international inspirations and influence. The course aims to lay bare a genealogy that explores the extent to which African American poetry and prose have always constituted an international literature, even in their most nationalist incarnations. Exploring issues ranging from the impact of French Romanticism on African American literature’s inaugural moments to the Diasporic awareness that helps to fuel its contemporary literary production, the course will not only address how international literary movements helped to shape African American literary canons, but also how African American literary production influenced the world, then cycled and recycled home. In sum, the course strays from critical narratives that stress the sui generis origins of African American literature in order to emphasize the heterogeneity of a canon whose roots lie both in evolving conceptions of African American artistic and folk culture as well as in the alluvial soil of various international literary movements.
Readings January 19- Course Introduction January 26 th and 28 th- Mary Rowlandson (online at project Gutenberg [www.gutenberg.org]) February 2 nd and 4 th - John Marrant in Sayre’s American Captivity Narratives February 9 th and 11 th - Victor Hugo in Selected Poems of Victor Hugo February 16 th and 18 th- Selections from Shapiro’s Creole Voices February 26 th and 28 th - Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre March 2 nd and 4 th - Pauline Hopkins’ Contending Forces March 9 th and 11 th- Pauline Hopkins’ Contending Forces SPRING BREAK March 16 th and 18 th - Federico Garcia Lorca The Gypsy Ballads March 23 rd and 24 th -Langston Hughes Shakespeare in Harlem March 30 th and April 1 st - Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from UndergroundNotes from Underground April 6 th and 8 th - Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from UndergroundNotes from Underground April 1 3th and 1 5th - Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man April 19 th and 21 nd - Ralph Ellison’s InvisibleMan April 27 th and 29 th- Ralph Ellison’s InvisibleMan
Close Reading The Central Question: How does the author craft literary language to convey complex, nuanced meaning?
Literature of the Americas: Close Reading Captivity Narratives Era la tarde, y la hora It was the evening hour en que el sol la cresta dora when the sun glides over de los Andes. El desierto the Andes. The desert incommensurable, abierto incommensurable, opens y misterioso a sus pies at its feet se extiende; triste el semblante, and expands solitario y taciturno solitary and taciturn como el mar, cuando un instante like the sea when in an instant el crepúsculo nocturno, the nocturnal twilight pone rienda a su altivez reins in its pride. Expansionist Metaphors 1)Wilderness 2)Sunsets
Literature of the Americas: Close Reading Captivity Narratives Era la tarde, y la hora It was the evening hour en que el sol la cresta dora when the sun glides over de los Andes. El desierto the Andes. The desert incommensurable, abierto incommensurable, opens y misterioso a sus pies at its feet se extiende; triste el semblante, and expands solitario y taciturno solitary and taciturn como el mar, cuando un instante like the sea when in an instant el crepúsculo nocturno, the nocturnal twilight pone rienda a su altivez reins in its pride. Expansionist Metaphors 1)Wilderness 2)Sunsets The desert is incommensurable, and yet it is bounded by the Andes on the West. The description presupposes an Eastern vantage point, which is the city as the locus of civilization and the place from which the poem is written and for whom it is written. The arduous, yet necessary, movement from East West is the historical presupposition of a poem which tells the story of pioneers held captive by Indians who are, in turn perceived as the main obstacle to the colonization of their own land. The paradox of an incommensurable and yet bounded territory is informed by the nation ‑ building project of a people in a land whose boundaries are presupposed on the west but undefined on the Eastern side of the Andes. The second paradox is that of an empty space that is inhabited by an indigenous population. This paradox is to be resolved by a political decision Echeverría favors: the extermination of the indigenous populations. The third paradox is a poetic summary of the other two, the best light with which one can appreciate the national reality is the twilight.
King Philip’s War King Philips’ War—the conflict that precipitated and engendered Rowlandson’s captivity—began when Wampanoag warriors killed English owned cattle for grazing and trampling Wampanoag cornfields near tribal headquarters in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island. In blind retaliation, British troops under General Turner Winslow attacked the Naragansett winter encampment the following morning, killing over five-hundred Indians (mostly women and children) in what became known as the Great Swamp Massacre (1675). In turn, this action hastened a military alliance between the surviving Naragansett and the Wampanoag (already allied with the Nipmucks) whose first campaign, as detailed in the narrative’s opening moments, destroyed the expansionist settlement of Lancaster, taking Rowlandson captive in the process. Most are surprised to learn that King Philip’s (or Metacomet’s) War is, per capita, the bloodiest war in North American history, and- as it does for Rowlandson- provided the setting/circumstance for many of North America’s most popular tales/poems/songs of the 17 th, 18 th, and early 19 th centuries.
Spiritual Autobiography Spiritual autobiography is a genre of non-fiction prose that dominated Protestant writing during the seventeenth century, particularly in England, particularly that of dissenters. The narrative follows the believer from a state of damnation to a state of grace; the most famous example is perhaps John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding (1666). Because so many autobiographies were written, they began to pitfall into a predictable pattern. The "formula" began with a sinful youth, "followed by a gradual awakening of spiritual feelings and a sense of anxiety about the prospects for one's soul. The person would repent, fall again into sin, repent, and sin again; such cycles could last for years. The Bible was often a source of comfort or fear during this time. Finally, the person had a conversion experience, an "epiphany, often of an emotionally shattering character, by which individuals came to realise that they had been singled out by God for salvation. Life was not necessarily easy after this, but it was a good deal less traumatic. These overarching narratives were seen to be not only relevant to human life, but also to human history. Those who practiced this type of spiritual autobiography believed that "history repeats itself not only in man’s outward, group existence, but in the spiritual life of individuals.”