Fall 2017 HC 424H/421H: African-American Writers in Paris

Fall Term, 2017-2018

Professor: Corinne Bayerl

4 credits

  • CRN 17323: Tuesday & Thursday, 16:00 – 17:20 @ 301 GER

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Arts & Letters Colloquium and an Identity, Pluralism and Tolerance multicultural class. If you have already taken an Arts & Letters Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and an Identity, Pluralism and Tolerance multicultural class.

This class will focus on the vibrant African-American community that settled in Paris after WWI and included writers and intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright. We will discuss why these writers chose to live in France as expatriates, in which ways they impacted both French and American culture, and we will consider their perspectives on race relations back home and in their adopted country. For each of these writers their exile in France was a transformative experience, and we will explore how it shaped their writing.


Some of the more specific questions that will guide our reading and discussion will include:

  • How did the experience of African-American troops fighting in WWI in France shape the image of a colorblind France?
  • What did the role of France as a colonialist power mean for how these exiles portrayed their adopted culture?
  • In which ways does the setting of fictional texts in France allow African-American writers to lend expression to experiences different from those in an American setting?
  • In which ways did the writings of African-American expatriates give a new perspective to the question what it means to be an (African-) American?
  • How does the legacy of African-American writers in Paris shape the views of contemporary African-American intellectuals such as Ta-Nehisi Coates?