Monday, October 15, 2012

African American Literature @ SIUE

Over the last few years, we've implemented an array of African American literature courses and literary-related black studies activities. My colleagues Anushiya Ramaswamy, Jeffrey Skoblow, Adrian Matejka, Candice Jackson*, and I have worked to really expand and solidify our offerings. So far, we teach the following courses:

ENG 111 (special topics): A course designed for first-year students focusing on black writings
ENG 205: Introduction to African American Texts
ENG 340: Topics in World Literature (sometimes taught as Caribbean literature) 
ENG 341: African American Women’s Writing
ENG 342: Movements in African American Literature 
ENG 343: Topics in African-American Rhetoric
ENG345: African American Poetry and Folklore
ENG 446: Studies in African American Literature
ENG 477: Toni Morrison: major author course

My literature courses have focused on afrofuturism, on black nerds, and on Malcolm X. We offer at least 6 courses each semester. Nearly every semester, either Anushiya or I teaches an independent study course for advanced students interested in special topics. For instance, in Spring 2013, I'll coordinate a course focusing on basketball, race, and movement for two students.

Although our courses attract undergraduates from various backgrounds, we perhaps see more African American students than any other single academic unit on campus. Last spring, for instance, approximately 160 students enrolled in the courses that Candice Jackson and I taught, and more than half of those students were African American. More than 30 of those black students had already taken courses with Jackson or me prior to that semester.  

As director of the Black Studies Program, I often incorporate literary projects into our active programming agenda. Thus, we regularly coordinate reading discussion groups and mixed media poetry exhibits.  Last year, we hosted two small book festivals, which we'll do again this year as well. The establishment of the "Underground Reading Room" at Lovejoy Library, the university's only African American cultural space, was a black studies and African American literary enterprise.   

We've also worked to become a leading force for online writings about African American poetry. Cindy Lyles and Briana Whiteside, two of our current graduate students with interests in African American literature, Danielle Hall, a graduate student from Historical Studies, and our recent graduate Emily Phillips, have been important contributing writers for our site. Scholar TherĂ­ A. Pickens, another contributing writer for our site, discusses literature among other topics, and the UTSA Reading Collective, comprised of Ph.D. students concentrating on African American literature, also contributes to our overall blogging activity.  

Moving forward, I'm hoping to collect and circulate more information on what my colleagues, our students, and our contributing writers are experiencing by participating in such a vibrant academic and intellectual endeavor featuring African American literature. 

* Adrian Matejka is on leave for the year at Indiana University, and Candice Jackson recently accepted an administration position at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. We have begun a search for an additional scholar of African American literature.

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