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Contemporary African American and Black British Writing - ENG00110H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Janine Bradbury
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Writing for the Guardian in 2019, Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo noted that we are in unprecedented times for Black writers and Black women writers in particular. The rise of the internet, Evaristo suggests, is partly responsible as writers “It has reconfigured how we present ourselves to the world at large, as well as bringing previously marginalised social groups and writing to the fore in ways hitherto unimaginable.” But more recently, in response to the continued Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, publishers promoted Black writers on an unprecedented scale. Crucially in her article, Evaristo observes the complex interplay between British and American writers of colour who often work within distinct cultural climates despite sharing similar concerns and literary influences.

On this module, we will examine some of the most hyped-up, talked about, challenging and innovative writing of recent years by African American, Black British, and Black Atlantic writers. Specifically, we will contextualise 21st-century works by authors such as Evaristo, Candice Carty-Williams, Natasha Brown, Raven Leilani, Zadie Smith, Paul Mendez, and Kiley Reid by exploring their influences and inspirations in works by writers like ZZ. Packer, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Kathleen Collins and others. Reading new and emerging writers alongside the trailblazing authors who inspire them, we will engage in conversations about creativity, craft, and new directions in contemporary writing.

The works we will examine challenge and resist long-held distinctions regarding national identity, gender, sexuality, tradition, form, and genre. Bringing together 20th- and 21st.- Century Black writers from British, American, and Caribbean cultures, our discussions will also draw upon debates about (post)modernity, globalisation, and commodification. You will be encouraged to read Black writing both within, against, and beyond the canons with which they are typically associated.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to facilitate an understanding of the specific contexts influencing contemporary Black writers while opening up a unique opportunity to identity trans-Atlantic connections, resonances, and dialogues at play in writings by contemporary Black authors working out of the UK and North America. Additionally, by writing about very recently published works (which are yet to be the subject of significant academic scrunity), you will have the opportunity to produce innovative and original close readings and to follow exciting new lines of enquiry.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with contemporary Black British and African American literatures.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the social, cultural, literary, theoretical, and historical contexts informing contemporary Black writers.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields of African American studies, postcolonial studies, and the contemporary literary marketplace.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000-word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000-word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks.

You will submit your summative essay via the VLE during the revision and assessment weeks at the end of the teaching semester (weeks 13-15). Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to e:Vision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Indicative texts (actual reading list to be confirmed prior to the start of term):

  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and extracts from Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers Gardens (1983)

  • Ann Petry, The Street (1946)

  • James Baldwin Giovanni’s Room (1956)

  • Selected short stories from Kathleen Collins’s Whatever Happened to Interracial Love (2016) and ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (2000), and Danielle Evans’s The Office of Historical Corrections (2020).

  • Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005)

  • Poetry by Rachel Long, Safiya Sinclair, Morgan Parker, Warsan Shire, Wanda Coleman, Tracy K. Smith, Jay Bernard, Roger Robinson, Danez Smith and Terrance Hayes.

  • Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (2019)

  • Paul Mendez, Rainbow Milk (2020)

  • Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age (2020)

  • Raven Leilani, Luster (2021)

  • Natasha Brown, Assembly (2021)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.