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ENGL479B - Selected Topics in English and American Literature after 1800; Black Performance: From Slavery to Hip Hop

A fugitive slave mails himself to Philadelphia, PA, and celebrates with a moving performance of song upon arrival. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. uses his body to protest racial segregation. Rick Ross, Diddy, 2 Chainz, and a cadre of other black rappers join forces to record “Don’t Shoot”—a prayer song in rap that protests the shooting of Mike Brown. In this course, we will explore the connective tissues that link these seemingly disparate modes of performance, paying particular attention to the aesthetic, social, and political possibilities that emerge in and through such acts of staging black bodies, across time and space. How have orality and embodied performance been central to the production of black art, and what has been the role of writing in representing these acts? How have these performances both made and unmade popular conceptions of social identity, including race, gender, and sexuality? What roles do audiences and spectators play in the production of black performance? These questions, among others, will anchor our conversations, as we read and analyze various “sites” of performance—from slave narratives to Broadway plays, from civil rights protests to hip hop. In this vein, we will put black artists such as Frederick Douglass, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka in the company of Billie Holiday, Gil Scott-Heron, Biggie Smalls, and Beyoncé.

Prerequisite: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department. Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.

0101 - Julius Fleming, Jr.

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