English | African American Literature
L396 | 13439 | DeWitt Kilgore

DeWitt Kilgore

13439 – 1:00p-2:15p TR (20 students) 3 cr., A&H, CSA.

TOPIC:  “Grey Images:  African American Writing and American Cinema”

During the past century the success of an author or book may be
gauged by successful adaptation into film.  While this process is no
indication of a particular work’s artistic value it does expand its
potential reach and impact.  Cinematic translation also (for better
or worse) cues an audience on how particular novel or story might be
read or understood.  This raises a striking – and by no means easy –
question.  Does cinematic interpretation enhance or degrade the
impact of a literary artifact?  Does literary authorization for a
film distract attention from what is possible in cinematic
narrative?  What happens when a film has successfully supplanted its
source as a powerful articulator of a set of ideas or emotional
structures?  What judgments can we make about the potential and
effect of a work that exists in two different media?

This course takes on these issues within the context of recent
African American writing and its translation onto America’s motion
picture screens.  We will pay particular attention to the traffic
between word and image, silence and sound that occurs when black
life and thought becomes art.  The course will likely include the
work of writers like Toni Morrison, Walter Moseley, Lorraine
Hansberry, Chester Himes and associated films.  Filmmakers such as
Spike Lee, Gordon Parks, the Hughes Brothers and Julie Dash will
provide the cinematic context in which African American writing

This course requires two papers (3-5 typewritten pages, double-
spaced), two exams, one research team project, active and informed
classroom participation and attendance.  Regular group screenings
will be held outside of the regular class time.  These screenings
are a required part of the course; attendance is mandatory.  Please
check the published course schedule before you register.