African American Literature

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q20E12 Modern and Contemporary Literature

Module description

The writing of African Americans has played a crucial part in shaping a distinct yet fundamental presence in U.S. society and culture. As well as testifying to many massive upheavals, injustices, and movements in American history, black writers have often been at the forefront of literary experiment and development. This course will examine fiction and poetry that has attempted to shift African American experience from the literary margins into a place of undeniable cultural prominence.

The primary reading will be from the twentieth century, covering writing from the Harlem Renaissance, the great period of literary experimentation and militancy in the 1940s and 50s that followed it, and the writing of the Civil Rights period through to the present day. There will also be some secondary engagement with examples of folk tales and nineteenth century slave narrative and poetry that inform later work.

Following the development of twentieth-century African American writing in a generally chronological manner, we can chart developments of form, concern and effect in this vibrant, vital literature, as well as considering its links to broader historical, social and theoretical changes.

Module aims

No information available.

Module learning outcomes

No information available.

Module information

Jean Toomer, Cane
Nella Larsen, Passing
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Poetry by Langston Hughes, Sterling A. Brown and Gwendolyn Brooks *
Richard Wright, Native Son
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Alice Walker, Meridian
Poetry by LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and Audre Lorde *
Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying
Toni Morrison, Love
* Poems to be provided on handouts

Learning and teaching methods

For 2020-21, we will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Walker, Alice. (2004) Meridian, London: Phoenix.
  • Larsen, Nella. (1969) Passing, New York: Negro Universities Press.
  • Baraka, Amiri; Harris, William J. (c1991) The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka reader, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press.
  • Ellison, Ralph. (2001) Invisible man, London: Penguin.
  • Whitehead, Colson. (2020-06-30) Nickel Boys: Anchor Books.
  • Hurston, Zora Neale; Eley, Holly; Williams, Sherley Anne. (1986) Their eyes were watching God: a novel, London: Virago. vol. Virago modern classic
  • Wright, Richard. (c2000) Native son, London: Vintage.
  • Brown, Sterling Allen; Harper, Michael S. (1996) The collected poems of Sterling A. Brown, Evanston, Ill: TriQuarterly Books.
  • Hughes, Langston; McLaren, Joseph. (2003) The collected works of Langston Hughes, Columbia: University of Missouri Press.
  • Morrison, Toni. (2004) Love, London: Vintage.
  • Toomer, Jean. (1975] c1923) Cane, New York: Liveright.
  • Sanchez, Sonia. (2021-04-13) Collected Poems, Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (5,000 words)  06/04/2021  100% 

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 Owen Robinson, email:
Dr Owen Robinson
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
University of Chichester
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 509 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
509 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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