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 Marita Bonner, Jessie Fauset, Angelina Weld Grimké, Zora Neale Hurston, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Nella Larsen; the visual art of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller and Augusta Savage; and the musical stylings of Gladys Bentley, 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 authors 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.
Humanities 200: Ideas and Issues
Introduction to Black and African Diaspora Studies
This course serves as an introduction to the foundational theories and methods of Black studies—the study of Blackness and the ongoing projects of abolition and freedom—and African diaspora studies—the interdisciplinary study of peoples of African origin across the African diaspora. In this section, we’ll begin by investigating the meanings and operations of Blackness and racialization, especially in the United States, as well as the historical and cultural function of racism and antiracisms. Throughout the course, we’ll analyze the power of Black cultural productions across time and space—from slavery and colonialism to the so-called post-racial and even post-human—foregrounding Black experiences and knowledges as central rather than peripheral. This course will introduce a variety of theoretical approaches to the field, including Black Marxism, Black feminism, queer of color critique, intersectionality, critical race theory, racial formation theory, Afrofuturism, and Afropessimism. This course is open to all students and will be of particular interest to students who may wish to pursue the Black and African Diaspora Studies minor.
English 371: Introduction to Ethnic Literatures (cross-listed)
Policing Blackness on Film
This course explores how contemporary films—such as BlacKkKlansman (2018), Blindspotting (2018), The Hate U Give (2018), and Queen & Slim (2019), among others—stage the policing of Blackness. In a moment of heightened attention to the police murder of Black people due in part to the often voyeuristic consumption of spectacularized videos of violence, contemporary filmmakers have responded by harnessing the very same medium to levy critiques of the police state. Throughout this course, we’ll engage critical terms from film studies to describe image and sound, and we’ll discuss a variety of theoretical approaches to race and cinema from Afropessimism, Black Marxism, critical ethnic studies, critical prison studies, and surveillance studies. To understand the cultural work of policing Blackness on screen, we’ll also locate film narratives in historical context, investigating the policing of Black people from antebellum slavery through the rise of the prison-industrial complex alongside sustained and powerful Black resistance, such as the contemporary movement for Black lives.
English 430G: Southern Literature (partial graduate)
Reading Confederate Monuments and Counter-Monuments
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 literature as Confederate monuments and Black literature as counter-monuments. Thus, we’ll interpret both literal and literary Confederate monuments, from the recently removed Mouton statue in downtown Lafayette to archival ephemera to early blockbuster films like The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939). We’ll juxtapose these texts with literal and literary counter-monuments, ranging from Charles Chesnutt’s short stories, Natasha Trethewey’s poetry, and Suzan-Lori Parks’s plays to Kehinde Wiley’s statue Rumors of War (2019). This course fulfills coursework distribution requirements and partially prepares advanced graduate students for comprehensive exams in the following areas: Southern Literary Studies (SLS) American Literature 1865–1945 (AL2), American Literature from 1945 (AL3), and Africana Studies (AAS).
English 212: Literature and Other Media (cross-listed)
Paris on Screen
Ever since Gene Kelly starred in the film version of the Gershwin musical An American in Paris in 1951, American screenwriters and filmmakers have continually returned to Paris not only as a backdrop for but also as an important character in their comedic and dramatic narratives. In this course, we’ll examine US films set in Paris across the second half of the twentieth century, moving from some of Audrey Hepburn’s classic romantic comedies such as Funny Face and Sabrina to contemporary films that combine a passion for romance, food, and the city itself, including popular films like Before Sunset, Moulin Rouge, Ratatouille, Paris Je T’aime, and Julie & Julia. How do these films represent Paris as a character and a location of passion of all kinds? How do such representations contribute to the cultural imaginary of Paris in the United States? In this course, we’ll explore how Paris is constructed as a setting through careful cinematography by visiting filming locations: not only big Paris landmarks but also smaller sites of famous scenes such as the Pont Neuf bridge, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the Place des Victoires public square, and the Le Grand Colbert bistro. We’ll also visit the Cinémathèque Française, where we can examine an archive of early film culture, including documents and ephemera. Finally, we’ll have immersive cultural experiences, such as taking a French cooking class, that allow us to reflect on the cultures and lifestyles of Parisians.
English 320: Modern Fiction (cross-listed)
Americans in Paris
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris,” Ernest Hemingway writes, “then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” In this course, we’ll examine the prose and poetry of expatriate white and Black US authors living in Paris during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, moving from the work of modernists such as William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, and Langston Hughes to midcentury authors such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Chester Himes to contemporary writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates. We’ll consider how these literary works frame the pleasures of Paris and the experience of being a cultural outsider, as well as how they cultivate a sense of personal identity and literary experimentation in this unfamiliar environment. How do these literary works represent, reflect, and embody Paris, its people, and its culture? And, by extension, what does that reveal about the United States? In this course, we’ll explore hubs of modernist art (visual, literary, and musical) including Musée Picasso and Montmarte, an important site for offshoots of Harlem jazz. We’ll also replicate the experiences our texts describe and hold discussions in the cafes in which our authors wrote through visits to Café Tournon, Les Deux Magots, and the Jardin du Luxembourg.