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.
- 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?
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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