Cover of Claudia Rankine's book "Citizen"

As part of the Department of English’s commitment to express our solidarity with Black Lives Matter by doing more to center black life in our curriculum and scholarship, this month we will be sharing reading lists taken from some of our courses on black voices and black lives. 

The third list in this summer reading series is taken from a course taught by Dr. Chris Brown: 

Black to the Future: Writing Afrofuturism and Afro Pessimism

The popular success of Get Out! and Black Panther over the last year have spawned exciting and challenging conversations about the place of the black subject in the US cultural imaginary. These of course are not new conversations; African American literary texts have been imagining the future of black characters in the racially troubled landscape of the United States since the nation’s earliest moments. In this class we will explore the texts of that tradition: from the first black radicals who imagined a different nation to today’s most celebrated writers of speculative realism and science fiction. Readings will include critical essays about Afro Pessimism and Afrofuturism, early speculative texts by Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois, fiction by writers including Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, and Colson Whitehead, poetry and memoir by Claudia Rankine and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and films like Get Out! and Black Panther. We will consider how these writers and artists think about the possible futures – and future possibilities – of blackness. 

Reading List

Pauline Hopkins, Of One Blood 

Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist 

Claudia Rankine, Citizen 

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me 

Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death 

Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts 

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet 

Secondary Texts:

W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Comet”  “Of Our Spiritual Striving” and “Of the Passing of the First Born” (from The Souls of Black Folk)

Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia

Charles Chesnutt, “The Goophered Grapevine,” “Po’ Sandy” 

Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts” 

Frank B. Wilderson, III, “Blacks and the Master/Slave Relation

Steve Martinot & Jared Sexton, “The Avant-Garde of White Supremacy

Samuel Delany, “Racism and Science Fiction

Hortense Spiller, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe” (JSTOR, requires university login; also available as a PDF download here)