Writing Warrior (Wo)men: Mothering, Movements and Migration in Black Literature

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Sophomore and above—Year

The interests of this yearlong seminar build on the productivity and excitement of recent scholarship in African American, African, and Caribbean diasporic studies regarding the role of the “mother figure” in Black diasporic literature, culture, and “thought.” The following central question will guide our study: How does each writer engage the maternal within his or her given historical contexts? We will begin our study with writings from the 18th century and work our way up to discussions of Black maternity in the contemporary imaginary. Therefore, we will explore (among other issues) what role “African” and/or Black maternity plays within these literary reproductions, given its (Black motherhood) contested space within (and beyond) the cultural, political, and legal history of slavery as philosophy and practice. We will examine the discourse surrounding formations such as the “slave mother,” “mother of a/the race” or “race mother,” “mammy” and “Black nanny,” “welfare queen,” “single mother,” “Black matriarch,” “Black queen/goddess,” etc. We will study the material using an interdisciplinary approach, which has been and remains central to African American and Caribbean studies, while examining these material tropes in fiction, nonfiction, “life writing,” poetry, music, performance art, popular culture, cultural studies and race theory, etc. Authors whose work we might investigate include, but are not limited to: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Martin Delaney, Claude McKay, Louise Bennett, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Paule Marshall, Saul Williams, Kamau Brathwaite, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, Michelle Cliff, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Nella Larsen, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Octavia Butler, Aime Cesaire, Patricia Hill Collins, Hortense Spillers, and Deborah McDowell. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with permission of the instructor.