17 Introduction

Module 5 – The Text and the World: The Harlem Renaissance, a Case Study

Module Introduction

Zora Neale Hurston, Beating the Hountar, or Mama Drum.


From the very beginning, one of the goals of this course has been to demonstrate that literature is indeed capable of performing a certain kind of work in the world. Although people read literature for a variety of reasons, not least of all entertainment or pleasure, like other sources of knowledge, literature plays an active role in shaping how understood ourselves and the world which we inhabit. In this module, we will explore the relationship between literature, history, culture, and politics through an examination of work of Harlem Renaissance writers.

As we will discuss in the learning unit for this module, the Harlem Renaissance was an important literary and artistic movement which took place in the early to mid twentieth century. Building on our discussion of the power of metaphors, this module will explore how artists and writers associated with Harlem Renaissance actively sought to transform the racial dynamics of American culture through the creation of artistic forms that spoke to the radical individuality and undeniable humanity of black artists. By exploring a fraction of the influential work produced during the Harlem Renaissance, this module will provide an introduction to this pivotal artistic revolution and offer a glimpse into the ways that black artists actively resisted forms of institutional and cultural racism in America .

Course Learning Outcomes

This module addresses the following Course Learning Outcomes listed in the Syllabus for this course:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking
  • Demonstrate understanding of Global Sociocultural Responsibility
  • Recognize the relationships between cultural expressions and their contexts
  • Understand cultural expressions
  • Interpret and evaluate cultural artifacts and/or their contexts for significance
  • Analyze and evaluate selected works of literature in classroom or online settings
  • Analyze and evaluate both in class discussions (whether face-to-face or electronic) and in class writing, selected works of literature
  • Demonstrate and understand how literature is relevant to their personal, social, and historical awareness 1

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the cultural importance of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Describe themes and major ideas of selected literary works in historical context
  • Interpret selected literary works for meaning and significance
  • Analyze the relationship between poetry and music
  • Develop a full-length analysis of a specific play 1

Readings and Resources

  • Read: Learning Unit: The Text and the World: The Harlem Renaissance (see below)
  • Read: Module 5 Readings ( Attached Module_05.pdf . You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access this file)
  • View: Study of Negro Artists (35) (Silent Film)
  • Listen: “The Forethought” from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois ( LibriVox (37) Recording)
  • Listen: “Chapter 1: Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois ( LibriVox (39) Recording)
  • Listen: “O Black and Unknown Bards” by James Weldon Johnson ( LibriVox (42) Recording)
  • Listen: “Lawing and Jawing” by Zora Neale Hurston ( LibriVox (45) Recording)


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