Spring 2019 HC 434H/421H: African-American Writers in Paris

Spring Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Corinne Bayerl

4.00 credits

  • CRN 32539: Friday, 09:00 - 11:50 @ CHA 301

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Arts & Letters Colloquium and an International Cultures (IC) Multicultural class. If the student has already taken an Arts & Letters Colloquium, this class will fulfill an Elective Colloquium and an IC 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 the following: 

• 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?