Proseminar: American Poetry of the 19th Century

Dozentin: Christina Caupert M.A.
Termin: Fr. 15.45-17.15 Uhr
Raum: 8013 BCM

In this reading-intensive seminar, we will discuss the different themes, styles and aesthetic approaches of various examples of African American drama, which can look back on a surprisingly long history - the first African American play, titled The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom, was published already in 1858. Its author, William Wells Brown, was a former slave who had secretly (and illegally) taught himself how to read and write before he managed to flee to the north, where he started a career as an abolitionist writer and orator. His fight for the right to express and represent himself is a concern that continued to be central for African American plays for a long time to come, since the abolition of slavery did not put an end to the widespread idea that black people were “uncivilized” and “incapable of cultural achievements”. African American playwrights found themselves in the paradox situation that they could only make themselves heard by conforming to the standards of mainstream society, which indirectly included affirming their own supposed inferiority. It was not before the middle of the 20th century that a distinct “black aesthetic” was claimed by playwrights like Amiri Baraka (who was born as LeRoi Jones but later decided to adopt a Bantu name to show his pride in his African background), but this development entailed other difficulties: although the total dis-engagement from “white art” has been postulated by some black writers, its realization seems quite impossible in view of centuries of mutual influence.

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen: Introductory course

Scheinerwerb: timely fulfillment of reading and homework assignments, regular attendance, active participation in class, presentation, term paper

Einführende Lektüre bzw. Textgrundlagen:
The plays will be available from April at the Amerikanistik office (room 4064). A reading list will also be published on Digicampus.