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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 379S • Apocalypse and African-American Writers

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35560 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
PAR 103
Severs, J

Course Description

As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.

African-American authors have often imagined the destruction of the world and its re-founding on different political bases as a response to the nightmares of slavery and segregation. Starting from Biblical sources and a sampling of nineteenth-century precedents in folklore and preaching, this course concentrates on the reinventions of this narrative of a cataclysmic end in the twentieth-century novel, along with some essays, plays, and poems. The intersections of African-American apocalypse with the broader American literary canon and the forms of realism, surrealism, and science fiction will be points of focus, as will the history of racial insurrection, muted and personal apocalypses, disillusionment with violence, and the role of the prophet. While seeking a balanced view of some of the most incendiary political visions in American history, we will examine these writers as keepers of a faith in religious redemption, endorsers and critics of militant action, and builders of new forms of community.

Grading Policy

Several short writing assignments: 40%
Participation: 15%
One presentation: 10%
Final research paper: 35%


Books of Genesis, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation
Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition
Richard Wright, Selected stories
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain and The Fire Next Time
LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, "The Last Days of the American Empire (Including Some Instructions for Black People)" and The Slave
Toni Morrison, Sula
John Edgar Wideman, Philadelphia Fire
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Suzan-Lori Parks, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World


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