Academic year
2022/2023 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LMJ290 (AF:381918 AR:205222)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
The course is part of the graduate degree in American, European, and Postcolonial Languages and Culture, Language Sciences and Comparative International Relations (American curriculum). Its aim is to provide students advanced skill in and knowledge about the analysis of American culture through a multidisciplinary approach. Students are expected to develop autonomous critical skills and to be able to analyze and contextualize heterogeneous textual and visual cultural material, using a specific critical vocabulary.
This is an Advanced course in American cultural studies with the following learning goals:
a) comprehension of the historical development of the concept of race, with specific reference to blackness in the US context during the 20th and 21st century; development of critical knowledge on this theme, understood in a diacronic and synchronic way, and on the complex relation between blackness and whiteness as a political act determined by the progressive request of authority and agency by African American citizens
b) development of students' critical skills by stimulating the elaboration of original ideas within a specific area of study
c) building students' analytical skills by adopting a multi- and interdisciplinary approach
d) development of independent and autonomous study through the possibility of personal research to be presented to the class.
Advanced knowledge of written and spoken English.
Ability to enrich the syllabus through individual research of material and independent study
The course aims at critically investigate the question of race in US culture and society, with an emphasis on blackness, its meanings and its representations. The course will feature heterogeneous materials including literary (political speeches and texts, poems, novels, essays) and cinematic (movies, documentaries, videos) products.
We will examine a selection of 20th- and 21st-century works which are representative of the constantly evolving meaning(s) of blackness in US contemporary society. Through the analysis of these texts, students will acquire familiarity with key concepts informing the intellectual and social debate within Black and Diasporic Studies (e.g. double-consciousness, the Middle Passage, the Black Atlantic, the New African Diaspora, etc.)
Primary Sources
- W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), selections (chapters 1 and 14)
- Langston Hughes, “I, Too” (1926) and “The Backlash Blues” (1967)
- Richard Wright, “The Man Who Lived Underground” (1941)
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1949), selections (prologue and chapter 1)
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
- Toni Cade Bambara, “Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird” (1971)
- Toni Morrison, “Recitatif” (1983)
- August Wilson, The Piano Lesson (1990)
- Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities (1992), selections (Introduction; Background Information; “Anonymous Lubavitcher Woman, Static"; “Anonymous Girl, Look in the Mirror”; “Minister Conrad Mohammed, Seven Verses”; “Lettin Cottin Pogrebin, Isaac”)
- Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (2016), selections
- Rivers Solomon, The Deep (2019), selections

Secondary Sources
- Bordin, Elisa. “Reimagining Family Trees,” in Transatlantic Memories of Slavery: Reimagining the Past, Changing the Future, edited by Elisa Bordin and Anna Scacchi. Cambria Press, 2015.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, 1: 139–167
- Hughes, Langston. “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
- Morrison, Toni. "Configurations of Blackness," The Origin of Others. Harvard UP, 2017: 55–74
- Rasheeda Muhammad, Precious. “Black Protest Writing, From W.E.B. DuBois to Kendrick Lamar,” Literary Hub (August 10, 2016),
- Rankine, Claudia. “The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning,” The New York Times (June 22, 2015):
- Ward, Jesmyn. “On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic,” Vanity Fair (September 1, 2020):
a) Final oral exam of about 30 minutes. Students must be able to discuss a topic thoroughly. Every student is asked 3 questions (specific or broad) on 3 different topics, which the students must use to organize their critical discourse on the themes of the course. The questions may be the comment of a text, a precise date/title/etc., or a broad investigation of a topic. The exam is not thought of as a test but as a critical discussion, whose aim is the assessment of the learning goals (knowledge of the historical and critical frame and of the texts; comparative and analytical skills; independent thought; communicative skills).
Primary and secondary sources are mandatory.

b) Participation during classes is highly encouraged and will be evaluated positively (20%). Attendance is not mandatory, however, your active participation to the discussions and conversations in class is a fundamental contribution to the seminar.

c) Students who cannot attend lessons are required to study some extra material (see Further Readings folder on Moodle).
Seminar with class debates/discussions and active participation by students.
Please consider that the COVID-19 pandemic has not ended yet; this may have an impact on the teaching methods.
Because of the COVID19 emergency, lessons and exam modality may vary. Please, check the announcements on the professor's page and on Moodle. Remember also to active and daily check your institutional mail (

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Poverty and inequalities" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 27/01/2023