Readers of James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston have often turned to these authors' essays with a mind to better understanding their literary work. In this course we will consider the African American essay as a form in its own right, one that rewards close formal analysis. The essay (from Old French essai, “attempt”) is a sort of rhetorical trial balloon, implying firstness, a want of finish, and a rigorous nonsystematicity. We will consider the matter of incompletion in two respects -- the essay as it engages the topic of the incomplete project of black freedom, and the essay as ongoing experiment in form—with a goal of puzzling out how the two are related. Readings by the following authors: Hilton Als, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), John Keene, Nathaniel Mackey, and Claudia Rankine.
M.A., English, Rutgers University; B.A., English/Creative Writing, Montclair State University. Exam Areas: African American Literature, The African American Essay, Movement and Migration in the Black Diaspora. Dissertation Title: “Absence to Excess: Managing Loss in the African American Essay”
Hot Essays: African American History Essay
Early’s publications include Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (1990), My Soul’s High Song(editor, 1991), The Selected Writings of Countee Cullen (editor, 1991), The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Literature, Prizefighting, and Modern American Culture (1991), Speech and Power: The African-American Essay and its Cultural Content from Polemics to Pulpit (V. 1 and 2) (1993), Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and Ambivalence of Assimilation (1993), Daughters: On Family and Fatherhood (1994), One Nation Under Groove: Motown and American Culture (1996), and edited Best African American Fiction(2010) and Best African American Essays (2010).