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Contemporary African American Literature

Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

“Contemporary African American Literature” is a three-week college and university faculty institute for twenty-five participants to engage in critical debates on contemporary African American literature. The institute, directed by Lovalerie King (English, Pennsylvania State University), engages participants in a critical dialogue on the continued viability of a literary tradition organized around race, blackness, or African-American identity, with an emphasis on urban fiction and new subgenres of popular fiction. Week one seeks an understanding of the tradition of African- American literature and the contexts within which it developed and thrived.  Week two focuses on contemporary popular literature and explore a series of questions: How do we define “Urban Fiction,” “Hip-Hop Fiction,” “Street Lit” and “Gangsta Lit”?  Are college classrooms appropriate places for teaching popular literature?  Should we bring the same aesthetic analysis to popular fiction that we bring to conventional literary texts?  What is a graphic novel and does it have literary merit?  How has new technology affected literary production and distribution?  Week three considers how the publishing industry has shaped the tradition, as a question central to contemporary debates.  The institute is anchored by primary readings such as Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Wench, Sister Souljah’s Midnight: A Gangster Love Story, Nikki Turner’s Natural Born Hustler, as well as by secondary materials including Maryemma Graham’s Black is Gold: African American Literature, Literacy, and Pedagogical Legacies, Paul Gilroy’s Against Race, and Kenneth Warren’s “Historicizing African American Literature.”  The director is joined by a number of guest lecturers:  Trudier Harris (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), Maryemma Graham (University of Kansas), Dana Williams and Greg Carr (Howard University), Shirley Moody-Turner (Pennsylvania State University), Eve Dunbar (Vassar College), Howard Rambsy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Evie Shockley (Rutgers University), and LaMonda Horton-Stallings (Indiana University).


Dates: July 9-27, 2012 (3 weeks)
Grantee Institutions: Pennsylvania State University
Location: University Park, PA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in Summer Seminars and Institutes. Each NEH Summer Seminar includes sixteen participants working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars. Participants have access to a major research collection, with time reserved to pursue individual projects.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes are designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students. Qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible to compete provided they can effectively advance the teaching and research goals of the project.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one.

Please note:

Adjunct faculty, community college faculty and first-time participants are encouraged to apply.

Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are reserved for current full-time graduate students in the humanities.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.