ENG32560 Writing Black: African American Literature and Racial Consciousness

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module explores the historical development of racial consciousness in African American writing from the nineteenth century to the present. With the legacies of transatlantic slavery and W.E.B. Du Bois’s classic notion of “double consciousness” as central through-lines, the module addresses texts from across a range of genres: fiction, autobiography, drama, poetry, film, and theory. We will explore how consciousness of race and racialization has been articulated by Black writers in a variety of historical contexts, from slave narratives through the New Negro Renaissance and Civil Rights era to the contemporary moment of Black Lives Matter. We will also examine how race has intersected for African American writers with other concerns, including class, gender, sexuality, economy, and political activism. The title of the module is intended to signify in multiple ways: as a suggestion that blackness can be as much a question of writing as of being; as a gesture towards the figure of black type on a white page, found in the work of many African American writers; and as an allusion to “writing back,” a mobilizing phrase for many anti-colonial literary movements. Attending to these varying resonances, the module offers students an opportunity to explore how African American writers have grappled with and shaped American racial consciousness, in the political sphere and on the page.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Identify key issues in the study of African American literature
2. Articulate the importance of (and challenges to) the idea of “double consciousness” in this literature
3. Explore the wider theoretical, cultural, political and artistic contexts surrounding African American literature in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including the legacy of antebellum slavery
4. Display strong primary and secondary research skills – undertaking research, application of research, transmission of research
5. Demonstrate ability to discuss complex ideas in class and/or in written assignments

Indicative Module Content:

Novels by Ralph Ellison, Nella Larsen, and Toni Morrison.
Short Stories by Derrick Bell, Octavia Butler, and Richard Wright.
Poetry by Jericho Brown, Mari Evans, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, Claudia Rankine, and Sonia Sanchez.
Drama by Amiri Baraka.
Film by Jordan Peele.
Autobiography by James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass.
Essays by W. E. B. DuBois, Barbara Fields, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison, Larry Neal, Alondra Nelson, Keeanga-Yamattha Taylor, and Richard Wright.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Seminars with guided discussion and case-based learning
Online discussion boards for week-to-week content
Critical writing 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Participation in Brightspace Discussion Board Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Plan for final essay Week 8 n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Essay: Final essay on agreed topic Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Online discussion board: Informal feedback is offered to the group through written engagement by the module coordinator, and through verbal comments in the classes. Essay plan: Written feedback is offered by the module coordinator on the essay plan of each student, and module coordinator is available for follow-up discussion in office hours. The module coordinator is available for individual feedback following the final essay assessment.