'Getting in Conversation': Teaching African American Literature and Training Critical Thinkers

King, Nicole. 2017. 'Getting in Conversation': Teaching African American Literature and Training Critical Thinkers. In: Ben Knights, ed. Teaching Literature: Text and Dialogue in the English Classroom. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 81-98. ISBN 9781137311085 [Book Section]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

Asking what we teach when we teach African American literature can feel like a reactionary and dangerous question, but the occasion of asking allows a different type of teaching and learning encounter to evolve. This essay explores how we might foster in students a reflexive questioning of knowable identities and a passionate curiosity about the shifting syntax and vocabulary of blackness. The difficulty is and remains that this unstable syntax and vocabulary exists in the literature in paradoxical symmetry with grand narrative structures. In other words, there is something about both the texts and aspects of teaching practice that creates a seemingly safe space for some students to relax back onto the soft furnishings of singular and monolithic notions of blackness as either authentic or inauthentic. King seeks to counterbalance such effects by making the implicit explicit while attending to discourses and theorisations of authenticity. She thus aims to move the paradox and dialectics of African American literature to the front of the classroom, for full and continuous engagement.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):


Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


6 October 2017Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Apr 2018 13:34

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2021 15:20



Edit Record Edit Record (login required)