Black Expatriate Writers in France Syllabus

Matthew Teutsch
5 min readFeb 18, 2023
James Baldwin in St. Paul de Vence

Last year, a colleague and I proposed a study travel to Poland to study the intersections between Jim Crow and the Holocaust. Sadly, that trip failed to materialize, for a few reasons. This year, another colleague and I proposed a trip to the South of France, specifically Marseille and Nice. She will teach an environmental science course and my course will focus on African American expatriate writers in France outside of Paris. My “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” course this semester arose out of the study travel course and really serves as a sort of extension of the study travel course.

Today, I want to provide the syllabus for the study travel course. The course is a 2000 level course, and some students have already taken the 2000 level course. So, the students who have done that will take the course as a 4000 level class with more requirements. The syllabus will incorporate both the 2000 and 4000 level course requirements.

Vieux Port Marseille

Course Description and Objectives:

In his memoir A Long Way from Home, Claude McKay writes about Marseille’s importance to him as a writer. He says, “It was relief to get to Marseilles, to live in among a great gang of black and brown humanity. Negroids from the United States, the West Indies, North Africa and West Africa, all herded together in a warm group.” The port of Marseille is at the intersection of Europe and Africa, it is a space of cultural hybridity where people from around the world come together and interact. For McKay, Marseille provides a city that brings individuals from the African diaspora together. It exists as a space where, even amidst the racism of French officials, he feels “relief.”

McKay found Marseille so important that he set two of his novels in the city: Banjo and Romance in Marseille. Speaking with Senghor, a Senegalese café owner who served in France during World War I, McKay notes the impact of the cultural milieu of Marseille on him. Senghor implores McKay to “write the truth about the Negroes in Marseilles,” and McKay promises the café owner that one day he would do just that. Banjo and Romance in Marseille are those books, and…

--

--

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.