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The Teaching ArchiveA New History for Literary Study$
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Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226735948

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226736273.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

J. Saunders Redding, The Negro in American Literature (1944) and American Biographical Literature (1976)

J. Saunders Redding, The Negro in American Literature (1944) and American Biographical Literature (1976)

(p.107) Chapter 4 J. Saunders Redding, The Negro in American Literature (1944) and American Biographical Literature (1976)
The Teaching Archive

Rachel Sagner Buurma

Laura Heffernan

University of Chicago Press

This chapter turns to J. Saunders Redding’s years of teaching in southern historically Black colleges in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, where he first developed survey courses that presented American literature as the collective history of white and Black authors writing with urgency and immediacy about their material and social circumstances while writing his groundbreaking work of literary criticism To Make a Poet Black. “Until relatively recent times, writing by both Black and white Americans had little to do with aesthetics either as philosophy or in practice,” read the opening premise of the Negro in American Literature syllabus that Redding taught regularly at the Hampton Institute and later at Cornell and other northern universities. Redding’s courses abandoned formally conscious texts in order to explore genres that documented the vast and strange collection of American lives ignored by official histories. Disciplinary histories, focused on elite, predominantly white universities, have seen curricular integration as a matter of adding Black writers to preexisting syllabuses or offering specialized classes in African American literature. This chapter restores to view an earlier classroom-based model that offers a new vision of the relation between critical race studies and the teaching of literature.

Keywords:   J. Saunders Redding, African American literature, documentary, life writing, Hampton Institute, American Studies, Charles Dickens, realism, To Make a Poet Black, critical race studies

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