Contemporary Black American Women Poets: Experiments in the Lyric

This course surveys experimental writing by Black American women poets in the 21st century. Contextualized in the work of black women writers and theorists before them, we foreground attentiveness to experimentation in relation to language, identity, and the societal pressures that shape them. Augmenting the attention to race with gender, we follow a question posed by poets Evie Shockley and Terrance Hayes: “Does it take something more or different for Black poets to be understood as experimental poets?” The class begins with an overview of poets from Phyllis Wheatley to Audre Lorde in order to understand the literary landscape from which these poets emerge and continues with the work of living writers ranging from M. NourbeSe Philip and Harryette Mullen to Evie Shockley and Simone White, and others in between, as they engage with the lyric across poetic mediums including the poetry collection, the essay, sound and performance, and narrative prose. Devoting two weeks to each poet or poetic pairing, we spend in-depth time with their works, their influences, relevant theoretical writings and criticism, and in many instances, the poets’ own critical writings. Many (if not all) of these writers may visit for in-class discussion and a series of public readings.

Prerequisite: introductory level ENGL or AFAM course.

Also AFAM 237

Undergraduate Course #: 
T 1:30pm-3:20pm
New English Distribution: 
20/21 C Lit