Fall 2020

Humanities 200: Ideas and IssuesHUMN 200 Course Poster

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 will 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 post-racial and even the 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, Afropessimism, and posthumanism. 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.

To access a tentative syllabus for this course, click here.

Fall 2020

English 550: Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (graduate)ENGL 550 Course Poster

Racial Capitalism and Democracy from Reconstruction to the Second World War

This seminar will survey how racial capitalism—the notion that “racism enshrines the inequalities that capitalism requires,” in the words of Jodi Melamed—animates the American literary and cultural imaginary from Reconstruction (1863–77) to the Second World War (1939–45). In doing so, we’ll necessarily examine how the development of racial capitalism impacted the conception and execution of democracy in the United States, especially during westward (and later global) imperialism, Jim Crow, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era. If democracy is, as Fred Moten has described it, “government in which the common people hold sway,” how has racial capitalism impacted the practice of democracy? What does democracy look like in a racial capitalist nation? Attending to the work of authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Stephen Crane, W. E. B. Du Bois, William Dean Howells, María Ruiz de Burton, Sui Sin Far, Mark Twain, Ida B. Wells, and Zitkála-Šá, we’ll investigate how literary and cultural texts understood and responded to the structural inequities and liberatory potentials of one of the most tumultuous periods of US history. Thus, this seminar will introduce a variety of methodological approaches to the field of American literary and cultural studies, including methods from black studies, comparative race and ethnic studies, disability studies, Marxist studies, queer studies, and women of color feminisms. This seminar will partially prepare graduate students for the American Literature 1865–1945 exam and the Africana Studies exam.

To access a tentative syllabus for this course, click here.

Spring 2021

English 433G: Approaches to African American Literature (partial graduate)

The Present Past: History in Contemporary African American Fiction

This seminar will survey contemporary African American fiction of the last decade with a particular emphasis on representations of and engagements with black history, including works by such authors as Paul Beatty, James McBride, Jesmyn Ward, and Colson Whitehead, among others. The seminar will consider how, why, and to what end African American fiction grapples with histories of slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration in the current moment, examining how texts problematize or deauthorize so-called official histories by recovering, rewriting, or reimagining alternate histories. Employing as a lens Toni Morrison’s chant from the close of Beloved (1987), “This is not a story to pass on,” we might consider the nuances of narrative passing on with regard to heredity and lineage, racial performance, received histories, and even death. To facilitate critical reading of and writing about these works, this seminar will introduce a variety of methodological approaches to the field of African American literary studies, including methods from Afro-pessimism, critical race studies, black feminism, black Marxism, and queer of color critique.