LLS Boston

Fall 2017:

Black in America: Wright, Ellison, Morrison (LLS 177BOS)
Meets Tuesdays, 6:15 to 8:45 p.m.
Sept. 12 - Oct. 31
400 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, @ Goulston & Storrs

This course centers on arguably the three most provocative novels on race in America:

  • Native Son (Richard Wright, 1940)
  • Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison, 1952)
  • Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)

We will explore intractable racial dilemmas that have beset our country since before its founding and that continue into our own time.

Major Topics

  • How to characterize the specifically black perspectives that make these books possible?
  • Urban troubles: what are the most salient differences between Wright’s and Ellison’s depiction of the American city as racial cauldron?
  • Slavery: how does this foundational crime continue to vex American lives (white as well as black) long after the Civil War ended slavery?
  • Ethical matters/aesthetic forms: how do these writers succeed—or not succeed—in transforming social distress into meaningful art?
  • Frames of reference: in what ways can we discern the 1930s in Wright’s work, the 1940s in Ellison’s, and the 1970s in Morrison’s?
  • What are the distinctive tones and effects—syntax and cadence—of each writer?

The Professor:

Philip Weinstein, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of Literature Emeritus. His decades of teaching at Swarthmore focused on modern European, British, and American fiction. His most recent books include Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction (2005), Becoming Faulkner (2009), and Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage (2015). In LLS in Boston he previously taught courses on Faulkner, Proust, and a century of American short stories.

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