Black Lives Represented: Writing, Art, Politics and Society

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Study Abroad - Autumn
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 17 December 2021
04 October 2018


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The representation of black lives in writing, art, politics and society bears a legacy of erasure, suppression and denial, a practice sometimes referred to by critics as “whitewashing”. This legacy, undoubtedly linked to the growth of modern European imperialism in the wake of Columbus’s American encounters, can often obscure the history of black people and their cultural output in different periods. From the “whitening” of Ancient Egypt—whereby it was situated within a European Mediterranean world, as opposed to an African one—to quiescence about the presence of black people in Britain prior to the Second World War, black representation in world history often featured as a kind of absence prior to the 1960s.

This module aims to examine representations of black lives and cultural output over a broad range of fields, including the visual arts, literature, history and politics, and in different historical periods. It investigates what it means to be black—generally understood as a social category or construct relating to Africans and their descendants, whether Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin, African American or Black British—in relation to critical discourses of ethnicity, race and postcolonialism. It will also be informed by seminal theories of race by black academics and theorists, including W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, Henry Louis Gates, Sylvia Wynter, Joyce A. Joyce, Barbara Smith, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy.

Module aims

1. To provide students with a critical overview of writing, art and history by or about black (African and African descended) people through different historical periods.
2. To introduce students to a range of inter-disciplinary methodologies, frameworks and topics.
3. To enhance analytical skills and self-expression, through research and writing.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of a wide variety of cultural works across several important genres and forms, including the visual arts, literature and politics.
2. Critically evaluate and analyse artistic and cultural works on the module with an informed understanding of the historical period and context which produced them.
3. Demonstrate critical awareness of and the ability to research themes and methodological approaches pertinent to the study of black literature, history, politics or art.

Module information

Anticipated Coursework Assessment for 2018/19:

Essay (2,500 words) 65%
Scrapbook / anthology 30%
Participation 5%

Primary texts

12 Years a Slave, dir. Steve McQueen (Los Angeles: Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2013). DVD.
Mary Seacole, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands [1857] (Cambridge: Penguin, 2011).
W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Dover, 1994), 1-7.
Alain Locke, “Enter the New Negro”; W. A. Domingo, “The Tropics in New York”, The Survey Graphic (March 1925).
Amy Jacques Garvey, “On Langston Hughes: I am a Negro—and Beautiful”; Elise Johnson McDougald, “The Task of Negro Womanhood”; Marita O. Bonner, “On Being Young—a Women—and Colored” in Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology, ed. Venetria K. Patton and Maureen Honey (New Brunswick; London: Rutgers University Press, 2010).
I Am Not Your Negro, dir. Raoul Peck (New York: Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2016).
Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners [1956] (London: Penguin, 2006).
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice [1968] (New York: Dell, 1991).
Campos-Pons, María Magdalena, and William Luis, “Art and Diaspora: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons”, Afro-Hispanic Review 30, no. 2 (2011): 155-66.

Secondary texts (indicative list)

Brent H. Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003).
Henry L Gates and Cornel West, The Future of the Race (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1997).
Henry L. Gates, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1995).
Stuart Hall, Jennifer D. Slack, and Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Cultural Studies 1983: A Theoretical History (Durham: Duke University Press 2016).
Stuart Hall, Selected Political Writings: The Great Moving Right Show and Other Essays, eds. Sally Davison, David Featherstone, Michael Rustin, and Bill Schwarz (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017).
Bell hook, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism [1981] (New York: Routledge, 2015).
C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1989).
David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 2005).
Barbara Smith, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000).
Michelle A. Stephens, Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
Rhonda Y. Williams, Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (New York; London: Routledge, 2015).

Learning and teaching methods

Ten two-hour seminars / or 1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar if large student cohort. All module information will be available on Moodle.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (2,500 words)  17/12/2021  65% 
Coursework   Module Portfolio  06/01/2022  30% 
Practical   Participation mark    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jak Peake, email:
Jak Peake, Katharine Cockin, Sean Seeger; History: Laila Haidarali; SPAH: Lisa Blackmore; Sociology: Colin Samson.
LiFTS General Office, email: Telephone: 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Doug Haynes
University of Sussex
Reader in American Literature and Visual Culture
Available via Moodle
Of 30 hours, 29 (96.7%) hours available to students:
1 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.