Contemporary Black British Writing

Apr 2011

This class focused on investigating concepts of "Blackness" and "Britishness" through novels including Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Caryl Philips' Foreigners. More than just reading Black British authors, this class examined other British immigrant writings such as Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and Hanif Kureishi's The Black Album. Readings were supplemented with historical background and critical essays. The reading list for this course was well-chosen, and Hart's knowledge on the books incomparable. The syllabus also featured poetry readings, youtube videos for a class on performance poetry as well as an avant-garde documentary (Handsworth Songs, by the Black Audio Film Collective). Hart arranged the syllabus to give us a break from reading lengthy novels when papers were due. Hart is a good professor. Engaging, intelligent, and with a vocabulary that one expects from a British academic, Hart is actively engaged with the topics he teaches. Hart is just old enough to seem wise, and just young enough to be relevant. Nevertheless, he can be arrogant and moody and expects a high level of commitment to the class that is, perhaps, unrealistic. Hart is a stickler for flawless writing and rewards students for meeting with him during office hours. Nevertheless, he is always reasonable and willing to listen to students regarding extensions and sickness. He does expect you to contribute, and even set a pop quiz when he felt the class was not keeping up with the reading. Ultimately, though, he wants the class to succeed for the students' own sakes, because he truly believes the course is important and interesting - which it is. The texts and Hart's engagement with them makes this is one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia, and other members of the seminar have voiced similar opinions. Although discussions occasionally faltered due to the quiet nature of some of the class members, Hart worked hard to create a seminar with just enough lecture and just enough discussion. Take this class, if only for exposure to the excellent and little-known authors!

Jan 2011

Black British Writing with Professor Hart was a delight. He is an insightful professor whose energy is catching. Further, he knows the subject matter forward and back. He is a very fair grader, and provides great feedback on work. Hart is very encouraging when it comes to student participation, but he can get easily frustrated when the class is slow to respond, so DO YOUR READING and come to class prepared to talk! The syllabus can be demanding, but if you do both of those things, you'll love the class.