Comparative Literature

The Bible, the Blues, and the Black Experience (The Bible in African American Cultures) (Full)

Demetrius K. Williams, Assistant Professor

Course: COMPLIT 192, SEM 001
Class Number:
Time: TR 12:30-1:45 PM

Course Description:

While this course recognizes the Bible as a culturally specific text, the Bible has been significantly appropriated and used as an important tool of liberation in the experience of people of African descent in North America. Although the Bible was used as a tool of oppression during the slave and Jim Crow eras, African Americans found the Bible to be a source of comfort and inspiration, with its themes of love and liberation from slavery, triumph in the face of daunting challenge, “wandering in the wilderness,” freedom, family, and foundational faith.

This course will explore the Bible from the African American perspective and will include a range of topics from spirituals and the Blues, to autobiographies, literature, and Gospel music. It will also explore the potential and actual limitations of the Bible’s influence in African American culture and how some later political/religious movements sought to abandon it (and Christianity) altogether. In addition, this course will:

  1. Introduce students to the art of reading and analyzing religious and non-religious texts
  2. Provide college level analytical reading and writing skills
  3. Teach oral presentation skills
  4. Demonstrate library and appropriate internet research skills.

No prior knowledge of the Bible or African-American literature and culture are required.

About the Instructor:

Demetrius K. Williams is an associate professor in the Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature (FICL). He has been a faculty member of the Comparative Literature program within FICL and also has a part-time appointment in the Religious Studies Program since 2008. Before coming to UWM Williams taught at Tulane University (1996-2006) and Marquette University (2006-08). He received his B.A. in Comparative Religion from UWM in 1986 and matriculated to Harvard University Divinity School where he earned two masters and a doctorate in religion. His courses include: Introduction to New Testament Literature; Early Christian Literature; Literature of Paul the Apostle; Introduction to Religious Studies; Introduction to World Religions; The Bible in the African American Experience; and The Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Jewish Literature to name a few.