This course is an introduction to some of the historical, cultural and political contexts of nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American literary production. How are concepts that are foundational to American nationhood—citizenship, law, racial differentiation, and gender—related to questions of power? Why is “culture” an especially useful site for investigating how power functions? What questions do African American literary studies allow us to ask about power and liberation, history and society? And when it comes to black producers of culture, what (counter) responses to nationhood do they think into being? Our goal is to understand how the theories and analyses that we cover in this course may bear on our reading of literary texts. Questions about history, experiences of time or temporality, and representation will be central to our inquiry. Texts may include: Frederick Douglass’s Narrative (1845), Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (1901), Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), Ernest Gaines’s A Gathering of Old Men (1983), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987).