Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism in African American Literature: Fordham University

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Instructor: Elizabeth Cornell, English Department
Course Information: 1102 Texts and Contexts, Spring Semester 2011

Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism in African American Literature

In the years spanning 1940 and 1960, African American writers probed in their work the political unrest and protests against injustices that concerned their communities. Often working in and writing about urban settings and experiences, these writers saw American life as difficult, harsh, and unfair. They experimented with different forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and plays--to capture the experience of being American and black in the twentieth century. This course uses the cultural and historical contexts of the period to survey works written during this period. We begin with the naturalist works of Richard Wright (Black Boy, [1945]), Ann Petry (The Street[1946]) and Gwendolyn Brooks (Maud Martha [1953]), each of which offers a different perspective on the way the environment and social milieus can determine an individual's fate.

File:Art Class.jpg
Art Class, ca. 1939-1940, by William H. Johnson












Keywords Project

Our collective task this semester will be to explore through keywords how these writers appropriate and challenge the conventions associated with realism, naturalism, and modernism. The keywords are as follows: