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African American Writing after 1960: from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter


Course Information


4 week course

Kent's new postgraduate-level courses at its Tonbridge Centre are designed for anyone with the passion and motivation to deveolop their knowledge at an advanced level. These courses do not award academic credits: they can be studied for pleasure, or as preparation and an indication of your suitability for applying for a full-qualification programme. 

Wednesdays 1, 8, 15 and 22 November
10.30am – 12.30pm
Experimental, tumultuous, revolutionary. This course will consider how African-American identity has been shaped in the late 20th century. Reading both fiction and poetry, we will unpack how ideas of blackness have been constructed through literature.


Course Code


Course Dates

1st November 2017 – 22nd November 2017

Places Available

Course Leader

Claire Hurley MA

Course Fee

Course Description

‘I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me’. In Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, black identity was yet to be recognised. This course seeks to trace the evolution of black identity in the USA, from the 1960s to the present day. Exposing participants to a range of genres, from novels to avant-garde poetry, film to visual art, we will explore how race has been represented and enacted through literature. Considering the aesthetic and the political, we will discuss the imperatives that drive these writers to address the intersections of race, gender, belonging, and trauma.

Each core text represents a significant moment of black writing in America. We begin with James Balwin’s Another Country (1962), which presents themes of bisexuality and interracial coupling that were taboo at the time of its release. Moving onto Amiri Baraka’s radical poetry from the 1970/80s, Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel Jazz (1992) and finishing with Claudia Rankine’s recent genre-crossing text Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). With an emphasis on selfhood, music and urban space, each week we’ll explore how the writer addresses and critiques the power structures of dominant culture in which they operate.
Sessions will prioritise wide-ranging discussion, connecting the literature with key stages in African American politics, from Civil Rights to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. There will be an optional opportunity to submit written academic work in the form of a final essay. 
Required reading, in weekly order:
James Baldwin, Another Country (1962)
Amiri Baraka, Poetry Selections (1970s-1980s)
Toni Morrison, Jazz (1992)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014)
Additional suggested reading:
‘Black skin, white masks’ - Frantz Fanon, 1967
Documentary: ‘I am not your Negro’ James Baldwin.
Beyonce music album & videos ‘Lemonade’ 2016.
Black Lives Matter Political group http://blacklivesmatter.com/
The intended learning outcomes for participants of this course are to:
• learn to assess a variety of different types of written materials and their relation to verbal, musical, and visual forms, in the course of seminar discussions
• gain an understanding of the different historical and literary trajectories of African American writers in the USA
• an ability to apply close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and to make comparisons between them
• develop approaches to concepts such as race, gender, urban space 
Course tutor
Claire Hurley, PhD (pending) has worked as an Assistant Lecturer on a variety of American Literature courses at the University of Kent where she was nominated for ‘Teacher of the Year’. She has also taught at Queen Mary and is an Associate Lecturer in the English department at Goldsmiths University of London. Her PhD is on US avant-garde feminist poetry, and she has published on the writers Adrienne Rich and Gertrude Stein. Her most recent research interests include performance and embodiment in black poetry, as well as experimental pedagogies in seminar teaching. 
“We all love working with Claire! She is one of the most talented, original, and passionate lecturers working in her field. Student responses confirm that. I wish I could take her "African American Literature after 1960" course! Her knowledge and understanding of the literature and politics of the late-20th Century USA is simply extraordinary."
Dr. Michael Collins
Senior Lecturer in American Literature;
Director of Graduate Studies, Centre for American Studies, University of Kent
For any queries, please email tonbridgeadmin@kent.ac.uk


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