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University Bulletin

Undergraduate Degree Programs

English (ENGL)

ENGL 235 (US) (AF AM 235) African-American Oral Folk Tradition (3) The origins, forms, and function of the oral folk tradition of African Americans.

ENGL (AF AM) 235 From Folk Shouts and Songs to Hip Hop Poetry (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

This course contemplates connections between African oral traditions and contemporary trends in Black poetry—including hip-hop and spoken word poetry. The central objective of the course is to examine the degree to which the most contemporary forms of African American poetry continue to function as folk expression; it provides an opportunity for students to examine the oral roots of African American literature in general and contemporary hip-hop and spoken word poetry, in particular. Music, particularly the Blues and Jazz, will be a prominent feature of this class as we try to discover the peculiarities of Black poetry. Students will begin by comparing African and African American folk forms such as proverbs and epic poetry, continue with early African American poets such as Phyllis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, and continue through the 20th century with the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement to contemporary Hip-Hop and Spoken Word, including Def Poetry Jam recordings. Background readings will include important essays (such as James Weldon Johnson’s “Preface to the Book of Negro Poetry” and Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”) that reveal the kinds of aesthetic issues African American artists faced in crafting their art in the face of a dominant culture that consistently questioned their capacity for artistic production. Students will listen as Margaret Walker reads her famous poem, “For My People,” and they will consider the importance of the Black Arts Movement, its poets and critics to the development of contemporary hip-hop and spoken word poetry. Other course materials will include videotaped interviews and poetry readings. Readings would come from an appropriate anthology and/or a combination of other appropriate texts selected by the instructor.


General Education: None
Diversity: US
Bachelor of Arts: Humanities
Effective: Spring 2013 Ending: Fall 2014
Prerequisite: ENGL 015 orENGL 030

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.