In this class you will investigate the many faces that nature bears in the poetry of writers of African-descent. You will read poems from the Antebellum period through the contemporary period, poems that defy the myth that Black poets solely write about an urban experience in predictable ways. For Black poets, nature serves as a catalyst for contemplating freedom, complicating thoughts on injustice, and considering how better to use the earth to sustain a life that “civilization,” as dictated by Western beliefs, has annihilated. This class focuses heavily and mostly on poetry but there will also be a smattering of essays and fiction to help us better understand how a “tree” means different things in the Black imagination than it does in Eurocentric pondering. Some writers we may read are James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Edward P. Jones, Natasha Trethewey, Jericho Brown, Camille T. Dungy, Tracy K. Smith, June Jordan, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Derrick Austin, Ed Roberson, Rita Dove, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Ross Gay, and many more. Expected Assignments: weekly response papers, short presentations, and a final paper.
Phillip B. Williams