Winter 2022 Class Schedule
101-6-20 – First-Year Seminar: Black Life. Trans Life.
This course will introduce students to the parameters and textures of black life, trans life, and black trans life. Popular discourse has either depicted black trans people as glamorous superstars or always and already predisposed to death. This course, then, seeks to usefully complicate these narratives and focus on black and trans life. To that end, the course will task students with gaining an understanding of the nuances of black life via its entanglement with the afterlife of slavery and contemporary radicalism; with trans life via its troubling of the gender binary; and black trans life via the ways that blackness and transness interact and converge.
101-6-21 – First-Year Seminar: From Black Power to Black Lives Matter
Given the many gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, what accounts for the rise of #BlackLivesMatter? Why do the police and criminal legal system seem so resistant to reform? What led to ‘mass incarceration’? What has happened to public school systems in the urban North since the Civil Rights Movement? Have electoral politics been responsive to the struggles and challenges in poor Black communities? This seminar examines urban racial conditions since the 1960s and explores the analyses, remedies and solutions that young activists have been formulating to address the challenges of the 21stcentury. Readings include historical and contemporary studies. A major goal of this class is to sharpen your writing skills. We will balance reading assignments with short writing assignments.
210-0 - Survey of African American Literature
In this course, students will gain wholistic knowledge of the long arc of African American literature. Beginning from the era of U.S. slavery through the contemporary moment, the course will introduce to students critical snapshots of expressive writings by and about African Americans. Authors include Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass; James Baldwin and Richard Wright; Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Rita Dove; and contemporary authors including Joshua Bennett and Ta-Nehisi Coates. In short, the aim of this course will be to explore how black people in the U.S. meditated on black life and sociality, and indeed black death and anti-blackness, through literature and the intersections of class, gender, and sexuality.
211-0 – Literatures of the Black World: Black Classicism
“Black classicism” is the study of black scholars, writers, and artists who deliberately engage with and extend of the classical tradition as well as the creative and intellectual production by those scholars and writers. Michelle Valerie Ronnick coined the term Classica Africana in 1996 to describe, in short, “the influence of classical studies on people of African descent.” Classica Africana includes those in the nineteenth century who studied and read classical literatures and languages, Greek and Latin, the students of standard formal American education as influenced by the British liberal arts system, neoclassical or black classicist writing, and, to a lesser degree, the traces of classical literatures common to popular memory.
This course introduces the long history of Black Classicist literatures. Since Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), the very first publication by an African American in the United States, black writers have engaged with classical works by Greek and Roman authors. During this class, we will read selections from Black Classicist writers and the referent texts (in translation). We will explore the variety of fiction and poetry from Phillis Wheatley, Ovid, Pauline E. Hopkins, Charles Chesnutt, Euripides, as well as more recent work by Toni Morrison, Donika Kelly, and Kwame Dawes & Matthew Shenoda. As a class, we will create our own set of unique inquiries and explore the answers to, at least, the following questions: How do “the classics” inform the stories by African American authors? What kinds of capital do classical themes, plotlines, and symbolism create for Black classicist writers? What assumptions can we make about Black authors who rewrite classical works? In what ways are those assumptions affirmed and exploded through our semester-long literary inquiry? In what ways does Black classicism alter the way we understand the classical texts to which it refers?
236-0 – Intro to African American Studies
This course will introduce students to the field of African American Studies. We will investigate how African American studies came to be a discipline in the academy and the shape(s) it took in its initial formulations. We will explore the ways various community members, activists, students, teachers, scholars, artists, musicians, poets, and filmmakers have contributed to thinking about the African American experience both historically and contemporarily. Finally, we will consider current Black struggles for freedom, for justice, and for humanity.
327 – Politics of Black Popular Culture
This course provides an introduction to the history of black popular music since the1970s, focusing primarily on sound cultures from the US, Caribbean, and Western Europe. We will begin by studying the mixing techniques developed in Reggae (dub), Disco (remix), and Hip-Hop (scratching and sampling) to discuss how they have shaped popular music since the1970s. We will then survey these genres as well as the histories of R&B, House and Techno and some of their many offshoots (Jungle & Afrobeats, for instance) have developed over the last 30 years to ask how popular music functions as one of the main channels of communication among the cultures of the African diaspora. Overall, this course investigates the aesthetic, political, cultural, and economic dimensions of black popular music, paying particular attention to questions of gender, sexuality, class, nation, language, and technology.
360 – Major Authors: James Baldwin
This discussion-based course will take up the nonfiction writings of acclaimed novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist James Baldwin, emphasizing works from the 1950s to the 1970s. We will explore the social and political thought of Baldwin focusing on issues of race and racism, gender and sexuality, nationalism and national identity, justice, religion, the vocation of the artist, and the meaning of history. We will conclude the seminar with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a long essay inspired by Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. You will be asked to write your own nonfiction Baldwin-inspired essay.
379-0 – Black Women Writers
Intensive, multi-genre examination of the contribution of black women to African American, women's, and American literature, with consideration of the factors and figures that have influenced the reception of black women's writings across time.
380-0-20 – Topics: What Is African American Literature?
What is African American literature? The answer, taken for granted by so many institutions (publishers, universities), would belie fearsome debates on the boundaries of a tradition that, these decades into the twenty-first century, remain porous. This course both examines and departs from the disciplinary function of anthology and identity, studying the question as it has been asked and answered within and against the backdrop of American literature. Possible authors: Charles W. Chesnutt, George Schuyler, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Barbara Christian, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Kenneth W. Warren, Margo N. Crawford.
394 – Black Gospel Music in America
This class explores the evolution of Gospel music from its African roots to today’s abundant subgenres of contemporary Gospel. Through readings, videos, and live performances, students will engage in critical discussions regarding the language, delivery, and social-historical implications of this original American artform. The class also looks at the lives of some of Gospel’s luminaries, including Chicago’s own Professor Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father of Black Gospel Music.”
403 – Theorizing Blackness and Diaspora
Introduces students to cultural, social, historical, artistic, and theoretical approaches to developing a global analytics of Blackness. Surveys Blackness as a category of critical analysis for both historical and contemporary social formations in the African Diaspora. Considers how gender, class, sexuality, and nationality shape the territory of Blackness.
480-0-20 – Topics: Black Life
This course will look at the relationship between Blackness and different concepts of life to highlight how Black life functions as a constitutive ontological limit for the workings of modern humanity. To that end, we will study texts from such recent fields as new materialism, animal studies, disability studies, and affect theory in tandem with writings from a variety a Black Studies approaches in order ascertain how they might fruitfully speak to each other. We will pay particular attention to the complex ways gender and sexuality function in the barring of Black flesh from the category of the human-as-Man, while also as providing the conditions of possibility for alternate ways of inhabiting the world.
480-0-21 – Topics: On Black Education: Towards a Liberatory Praxis
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