Fugitivity/Insurgency: African American Radicalism from 19th Century to the Present ENGLIT4138

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines African American radicalism from the mid-19th century to the present through the twin lenses of fugitivity and insurgency. Students will trace these forms of resistance and revolution across a variety of forms, genres, and sites, from slave autobiographies to speculative lyric poetry, from short stories to vinyl 12-inches, from stowaway cabins to the electric grid, from the ocean floor to the outer reaches of the cosmos. At the centre of our course is an examination of how fugitivity and insurgency name both an aesthetic and political mode of African American radicalism from the antebellum period to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.


10 x 1.5 hr seminars (one a week for ten weeks)

5 x 1 hr lecture (every other week for 10 weeks) as scheduled on MyCampus


As an honours module, this may not run every year.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours English Literature, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Editorial Pitches, 2x 400-word (20%)

Conference Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (20%)

Essay of 3000 words (60%)

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce students to a broad cross-section of African American literature, theory, and music and the foundational texts of Black Studies

■ Explore the relationship between politics and aesthetics in African American art through the lens and tropes of fugitivity and insurgency

■ Situate contemporary literary, ecological, political, and socioeconomic questions within a longer history of African American struggle and resistance

■ Develop interdisciplinary vocabularies for interrogating the cultural and political forms that are steeped in the legacy of white supremacy

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Apply key concepts in Black Studies to a wide range of media (e.g., literature, music, film) from the 19th century to the present

■ Conceptualize critically the relationship between political and aesthetic forms within African American art

■ Explain and engage with a variety of methodologies, such as Black ecology, critical race theory, legal studies, literary studies, geography, sociology, Black Marxism, nonhuman theory, Black feminist theory, and genre theory.

■ Synthesize critical, political, and artistic text

■ Reflect upon their own positionality and identify and mitigate against positions of racial privilege

■ Present academic work in way accessible to both generalist and specialist audiences

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.