To view a video about my critical race and ethnic studies teaching at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, click here.
Humanities 300: Themes in the Humanities
The Women of the Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance has been a much-studied era of Black US culture, but significantly less attention has been paid to Black women’s vital contributions to this artistic and intellectual movement. Across the 1920s and 1930s, as the New Negro Movement rejecting Jim Crow anti-Blackness picked up steam, and the New Woman’s Movement promoting women’s autonomy and sexual freedom gained traction, Black women grappled with their place at these movements’ intersection in their artworks. In inventing new forms of Black artistic expression that blended pan-African elements, high and low cultures, and experimental modernist forms, Black women artists both explored the past experience of and imagined a future for Black women in the United States. Examining Black women artists’ contributions in conversation, we’ll consider, for example, the literature of Jessie Redmon Fauset, Angelina Weld Grimké, Zora Neale Hurston, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Nella Larsen; the visual art of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Lois Mailou Jones, and Augusta Savage; and the musical stylings of Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. In doing so, we’ll discuss the literary trope of the tragic mulatta, histories of racial passing, the rhetoric of Black uplift and respectability, and the trauma of Black motherhood. In this moment of immense potential for cultural change, we’ll consider how and why Black women artists often understood race, gender, and sexuality as ambiguous, unfixed, and, at times, incomprehensible.
English 550: Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (graduate)
Citizenship and Sovereignty in the Long Nineteenth Century
The nineteenth-century United States was rife with questions of citizenship and sovereignty as the liberal-democratic nation advanced colonial and imperial projects at home and abroad, from settler colonialism and chattel slavery to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow to global imperialism and immigration restriction. All of these historical moments necessitated redefinitions of who counted as American and what counted as America, recalibrating power among individuals across the country and nations around the world. In this seminar, through an examination of sentimental, western, realist, and speculative literature written primarily by writers of color across the long nineteenth century, we’ll ask: How do texts stage and understand the relationship between citizenship and sovereignty? How do social, cultural, and legal definitions of personhood contribute to evolving notions of who counts as citizen and what entities are sovereign? What freedoms and unfreedoms does liberal-democratic citizenship require, and how do they manifest along axes of identity and difference? What kind of cultural work does literature do in the nineteenth-century liberal-democratic nation? To explore these questions, this seminar introduces a variety of methodological approaches to the fields of US literary and cultural studies and critical ethnic studies, including theories of biopolitics, liberalism, settler colonialism, nationalism, and imperialism. This seminar fulfills coursework distribution requirements and partially prepares advanced graduate students for comprehensive exams in the following areas: American Literature to 1865 (AL1), American Literature 1865–1945 (AL2), and Africana Studies (AAS).
English 440G: Southern Literature (partial graduate)
Reading Confederate Monuments and Counter-Monuments
Since the 2015 Charleston church massacre, more than eighty Confederate monuments have been removed from public lands in the United States—some toppled by protestors, many relocated to museums, and others put into storage. Meanwhile, more than seven hundred monuments remain, and at least twenty, mostly installed on private lands and funded by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, have been newly unveiled. Waves of removal, following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the 2020 George Floyd protests, have revealed that Confederate monuments activate agonistic discussion of Civil War memory, so-called white Southern heritage, the legacies of slavery, and the persistence of anti-Blackness. From courts and legislatures to town squares and city parks, the public is now actively engaged with how to read Confederate monuments—interpreting the meanings of their existence and their persistence or removal.
This course addresses what’s at stake in how we read Confederate monuments and offers frameworks for interpreting them in context, then and now. Tracing the rise and fall of Confederate monuments in US culture, we’ll engage questions about Confederate memory and memorialization alongside notions of social justice and national belonging. In doing so, we’ll necessarily read Confederate monuments as southern literature. Yet we’ll also do the inverse, reading some southern and Black literature as Confederate monuments and counter-monuments. Thus, we’ll interpret both literal and literary Confederate monuments, from the Mouton statue in downtown Lafayette to early blockbuster films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939), juxtaposed with contemporary Confederate counter-monuments, ranging from Natasha Trethewey’s poetry, to Suzan-Lori Parks’s plays, to Kehinde Wiley’s statue Rumors of War (2019).