Marvin Campbell

Undergraduate Discipline

Literature

BA, Vassar College. MA, PhD, University of Virginia. Special interests include African American literature and music, with an emphasis on their interface; 20th- and 21st-century American poetry and prose; transatlantic and transnational modernisms; and the Global South. ​SLC, 2017-

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Literature

Race and Satire

Open , Seminar—Spring

Humor has long provided a mainstay of cultural expression in the African American literature and experience. At least as long as since the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes saw African Americans as “laughing to keep from crying”—the act thereby providing an indispensable tool of survival—while for Richard Wright, wary of sentimentality, it was merely another form of confinement in the the white imagination: “the safe and narrow orbit in which America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears.” This course will use satire to complicate our understandings of gender, race, and sexuality in the 20th and 21st centuries, determining whether the genre provides a subversion of stereotypes and a tool to short-circuit the burden of racial oppression, as Hughes strongly felt, or merely recapitulates stock ways of thinking about black life in America, as Wright acidly countered. Through an interdisciplinary framework consisting of prose fiction, music, film, and television yet still centered on a literary core, we will investigate how comedy can frame African American identity and what that signifies in an era where race not only shapes but dominates the politics of a supposed “postracial” era.

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Prophetic Voices in African American Literature

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, amidst the challenges facing an increasingly fractious and polarized America centered around questions of citizenship and justice that strike at the heart of the body politic and its democratic values, we will examine how a black prophetic tradition—a visionary strain of African American literature—has raised its own collective voice in order to bear witness to suffering and injustice and ultimately combat it. Across a wide range of literary genres, from the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass to the hip-hop of De La Soul, from the Afrofuturism of Octavia Butler to the short fiction of Charles Chesnutt, from Beyonce’s Lemonade to Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues, African American artists have sought to envision and ultimately create a better world using formal and rhetorical strategies of the black church, the folk traditions of the American South, the cultural practices of signifying and code-switching, and the vernacular embedded in the blues and its later musical iterations, among multiple other formal and thematic strategies.

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