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Stories of Black Lives Matter

Learn contexts behind the movement with these Fall 2020 courses.

*ENGL130: Race and the Cultural Politics of Blood (Kim Coles)

We live in a moment when we are reckoning with a racist past in both America and Britain. We are trying to redefine what our future will look like, so it’s important to consider how we got here.  
This course explores “race”—as a term and a concept—at three different historical moments, using three highly influential works of literature to structure the conversation: William Shakespeare’s play Othello (1603), Aphra Behn’s novella Oroonoko (1688), and Herman Melville’s novella Benito Cereno (1855). Once we examine how fictions of “race” have been written, we will consider how these fictions are repurposed for politics, past and present. Alongside literature, we will examine the rhetoric of politicians, protestors, and pundits. Writers such as Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois will be the counterposing voices to that of Melville; the rhetoric of George Wallace and Barry Goldwater will be juxtaposed against BLM, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. The course concludes with “The Case for Reparations.” This course satisfies the Distributive Studies Humanities (DSHU) and I-series (SCIS) requirements for General Education.

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*ENGL222: American Literature, 1865-Present (Kerishma Panigrahi)

"This Land is Whose Land? Nationalism and Borders"

From the resounding calls to abolish ICE, to the cry that Black Lives Matter, to the declaration that there is no justice on stolen land, the people are demanding that the U.S. confront its uncensored past like never before. This course seeks to contextualize our current moment within the longer history of U.S nation-building through an examination of literature from the Civil War to the present. We will read with an attentiveness to issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, immigration, environmentalism, and imperialism as central to understanding U.S. history. We will consider the questions: What is “America,” and what do we know as “American literature?” Where did these constructs come from, and have they remained stable throughout history?

Course texts will range in genre and medium, including novels, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, film, and music. Writers studied may include but are not limited to Zitkála-Šá, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, Vine Deloria Jr, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Louise Erdrich, Maxine Hong Kingston, Junot Diaz, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

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* ENGL368D: African American Folklore and Literature (Barry Pearson)

This course uses a multimedia format to explore various genres of African American traditional culture such as:

  • Narrative forms including myth, legend, and folktale
  • Musical forms such as blues, ballads, gospel, spirituals, work songs, rhythm & blues, and soul
  • Belief systems including conjure, hoodoo, supernatural witches and ghosts
  • Customary practices ranging from signifying to jook house celebrations
  • Augmented by film and sound recordings we will consider these forms and black performance style in context and as part of an ongoing pattern of traditional preferences or aesthetics. In the process, we will look to iconic figures such as Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, and to collectors and cultural brokers including Zora Neale Hurston and Alan Lomax.

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* ENGL368J: Contemporary Black Literature (Sangeeta Ray)

In 1857, social reformer Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery in Maryland, delivered a “West India Emancipation” speech emphasizing the crucial role that the West Indian slaves played in their own freedom struggle. That speech began with what are today his most quoted words: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” This class begins with this speech by Douglass and then moves outwards to Africa and the Caribbean, to the U.K. and Europe, and then back to North America, examining creative depictions of struggle and liberation. We will study novels and short stories, films, and art, and will attend to the revolutionary successes and failures of different Black populations around the globe and up to the present moment. We will close the course with #BlackLivesMatter and its spread globally with work from Saeed Jones, author of How We Fight for Our Lives.

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See the full list of Fall 2020 courses.