English 262 - Fall, 2016

American Literature after 1914

Class Information

Instructor: Heard Mollel, Danielle
CRN: 53696
Time: T 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies


    Lady Sings the Blues: Blues, Literature, and Black Feminism

    This course examines a long tradition of feminist articulations in black women’s blues expressed in sound and literature over the course of the twentieth century. By bringing together black women writers, thinkers, and songstresses such as Gayl Jones, Bessie Smith, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday, we will become familiar with the recurrent tropes of black women’s blues and how these coalesce in a feminism based on the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality. By the end of the course, we will find that amidst stories of abandonment, battery, unrequited love, passion, sexual desire, depression, jealousy, poverty, natural disaster, homelessness, wandering, loss, racism, shadism, and self-destruction, black women’s blues above all names a will to survive, carves a space to be heard, and calls into being a community and a struggle based on shared experiences. Throughout the quarter we will engage equally in listening to music and reading blues literature. On this note, we will actively consider the musical qualities of the novels, plays, and poems that we read at the same time that we consider the literary aspects of the blues we hear. Each unit will be accompanied by supplemental readings from cultural theorists such as Angela Davis, Hazel Carby, bell hooks, Farah Jasmine Griffin, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Amiri Baraka, Lawrence Levine, and others in order to build a critical framework for interpreting, historicizing, and theorizing black women’s blues.


    Course grade based on 1 presentation, 1 response, and one final paper.


    For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Ntozake Shange
    Jazz, Toni Morrison
    Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
    Quicksand and Passing, Nella Larsen
    A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
    The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor
    Corregidora, Gayl Jones
    The Color Purple, Alice Walker
    Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Angela Davis