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African American Poetry: 1945-Present

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Course Schedule

Week 1: Langston Hughes and the Remnants of the Harlem Renaissance

Week 2: LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement

Week 3: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde and Black Feminism

Week 4: Steve Jonas, Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman and the Black Beats

Week 5: Gil-Scott Heron and the Intersection of Poetry and Hip-Hop

Week 6: Ai and the Contemporary Persona Poem

Week 7: Wu Tang Clan, MF Doom and 1990s Black Poetry on the Mic

Week 8: Terrance Hayes and Twenty-first Century Formalism

Week 9: Claudia Rankine and the Poetry of Black Lives Matter

Week 10: Kendrick Lamar and Poetry as Testament

Week 11: Fred Moten, Nathaniel Mackey and the African American Avant-garde

Week 12: Jericho Brown, Danez Smith and Contemporary Black Queerness


This course focuses on African American poetry since World War II. Key considerations include: the poetry of historical witness; the role of poetry in race relations and racial representation; the intersections of poetry and hip-hop; and the ways poetry expresses theoretical positions and personal identities with dramatic and physical immediacy.

With a preference for experimental, avant-garde, and formally innovative poetry, this course balances close readings of poems with critical and theoretical essays, and audio recordings, paying particular attention to the intersections of literature, history, sociology and race. Upon completion of the course, students will have a more comprehensive understanding of African American poetry from the second half of the twentieth-century and today, specifically regarding the frequent overlaps and cross-currents of poetry, hip-hop and contemporary culture.