This course introduces students to a variety of works by black women writers since Phillis Wheatley. At this moment, the notion of the “black woman writer” may not seem anomalous or unusual. However, it was only a short time ago in history that to be a black woman writer meant to be considered an aberration. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Phillis Wheatley’s poems were “beneath the dignity of criticism.” Jefferson and the men who held an official trial to interrogate the authenticity of Wheatley’s work would have never imagined that conference sessions, entire books, and countless critical articles would be dedicated to this foundational black woman writer: the very first black author to see their work published in the United States. In this class we will survey a wide range of Anglophone Black Diasapora women authors and primarily concentrate on the United States. Our authors will include Toni Morrison and Phillis Wheatley, as well as Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Nella Larsen, Octavia Butler, Toni Cade Bambara, and others.

Assignments will include regular online discussions, a mid-term paper, a group presentation, and an individual final project and presentation. Students will be evaluated on their performance in these assignments as well as class attendance and participation. This seminar depends on discussion and participation of every member of the class.

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