English 167 - Spring, 2021

20th Century African American Poetry

Class Information

Instructor: Gray, Erin
CRN: 62816
Time: TR 6:10-7:30pm


This course serves as an introduction to poetry by Black writers living and working in the United States in the long twentieth century. Beginning with the musical forms that have influenced Black poetry and poetics, we will explore the complex relationship between oral folk traditions and modernist aesthetics from the New Negro movement of the early twentieth century to present-day experiments in hip hop and visual poetry. Along the way, we will cover sorrow songs, the blues, lyric verse, dialect, modernism, the Black Arts Movement, and Black innovations in New American Poetry, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, and experimental music. Throughout the course, we will read works by contemporary poets alongside their poetic ancestors, focusing on the intergenerational exchange of form, memory, sound, and vision. Central to our study will be the social and political conditions of African American poetic invention. We will also concentrate on the connection of poetry to other aesthetic modes and forms of life, such as visual culture, performance practices, conceptual art, and underground publishing communities. Authors include Fenton Johnson, Ma Rainey, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Kaufman, Jayne Cortez, Harryette Mullen, Renee Gladman, and Kendrick Lamar.


Participation: 25%
Essay 1: 25%
Essay 2: 30%
Final: 20%