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Afro-Latino Literature as African-American Literature

During a symposium sponsored by the Poetry Society of America in 2000, poet-scholar Harryette Mullen argued that "black experience" has never been singular. She urged writers and critics of African-American literature to consider the fact that what comprises African-American consciousness varies from person to person. Failure to acknowledge these differences often leads to a dangerous reduction of complex identities. "In our anxiety to embody or represent authentic black identity," she stated, "we may impoverish our cultural heritage and simplify the complexity of our historical experience."

Mullens point in this moment is that reductive critical and creative approaches to black American experience may obscure the lives of black American individuals whose lives do not fit the paradigms. This argument also holds true for black American groups. This course "Afro-Latino Literature as African-American Literature" will introduce students to fiction, poetry, drama, and critical essays by Afro-Latino writers and writing (mostly poems) by Latin American writers of African descent who were published in translation in the US. As we read these primary texts we will consider the character of knowledge that gets produced (1) by and within the texts themselves and (2) by the marketing, anthologizing, and reviewing of these texts. The framing questions for our discourse will lead us to an extended discussion of difference within traditions, sameness across traditions, and effect of the market on our critical discourse.

--Mendi Lewis Obadike

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