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Aliens and Others: African Americans [Re]Writing Generic Fiction

Seminar Leader:
Herman Beavers


In light of the vexed history of African Americans in the United States, social realism has been the dominant mode for African American writers seeking to make black life legible. But a careful examination of literary history reveals African Americans writing across a range of genres, including detective, western, and speculative fictions. This seminar will work to explicate texts (both literary, televisual, and cinematic) that feature the detective, the cowboy, and the space (or time) traveler in hopes of expanding our under-standing of how racial, gender, and class identities have been and are being performed as well as how those identities are reimagined to navigate the conventions of a particular genre. Do these works offer writers another avenue for social criticism? Or do they seek to transcend (or deemphasize) social critique? Authors in the course will likely include Walter Mosley, Octavia Butler, Barbara Neely, Samuel Delany, Tananarive Due, and Chester Himes, and we will be viewing a range of television shows and films.
Teachers of language arts will especially find the content a welcome source of literary diversity to capture interests of their students by adding to, or enhancing, the required materials in their curriculum.

Unit TitleAuthor


“What If…?”

Joyce Arnosky
Keywords: being “the other”, ethics, science fiction, social commentary, time travel

(re)viewing bodies: The Walking Dead and Social Constructions in a Post-Apocalyptic Society

Tara Ann Carter
Keywords: “The Comet”, African American History, language arts, Literature, Reading, Social Construction, The Walking Dead, W.E.B. Du Bois, writing

“All of the Same Family”: The Fictional Science that Created America

Benjamin Hover
Keywords: African American History, African American literature, Enlightenment, Human Experimentation, Kindred, science fiction, Scientific Racism

Un-Zombied and Magically Black: A Kaleidoscope of the African-American’s Supernatural World

Wendi Mungai Umoren
Keywords: African American History, African American literature, Enlightenment, Human Experimentation, Kindred, science fiction, Scientific Racism

African-American Narratives Exploratory: Detective Gazes & Futuristic Furies

Bonnee Breese Bentum
Keywords: African American literature, African-American authors, African-American heroes, Barbara Neely, Cosmic Slop, detective fiction, Easy Rawlins, fantasy, Great American Migration, Octavia Butler, race in fiction, Samuel Delany, science fiction, snitches, speculative fiction, time travel, UbD, Understanding by Design, Walter Mosley

“Mystery and Detective Literature Activities” “That’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”

Karen J. Burrell
Keywords: literacy, literature activities, literature genres, problem solving

Employing Science Fiction to Increase Literacy in the Science Classroom

Cristobal Carambo
Keywords: Science, science fiction, science literacy

A Brave New World?

Nicole Flores
Keywords: literacy, literacy skills, Parable of the Sower, Reading, science fiction, The Giver

You Lookin’ For Me?

Glenza Lowman
Keywords: Black history, Black History month, writing

An Alien in the Cotton Fields: 47 by Walter Mosley

Joan Taylor
Keywords: cotton fields, Literature, Slavery, social realism, Walter Mosley