Black Studies Courses Offered 2017-2018

CDI Seminar: Exploratory Translation | ENGL 42918

Jennifer Scappettone and Haun Saussy

  • Focusing on the theory, history and practice of poetic translation, this seminar includes sessions with invited theorists and practitioners from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Taking translation to be an art of making sense that is transmitted together with a craft of shapes and sequences, we aim to account for social and intellectual pressures influencing translation projects. We deliberately foreground other frameworks beyond “foreign to English” and “olden epochs to modern”—and other methods than the “equivalence of meaning”—in order to aim at a truly general history and theory of translation that might both guide comparative cultural history and enlarge the imaginative resources of translators and readers of translation. In addition to reading and analysis of outside texts spanning such topics as semantic and grammatical interference, gain and loss, bilingualism, self-translation, pidgin, code-switching, translationese, and foreignization vs. nativization, students will be invited to try their hands at a range of tactics, aiming toward a final portfolio of annotated translations.

What Was Postcolonial Theory? | ENGL 46750

Chris Taylor

  • Postcolonial theory bears the honor of being a mode of inquiry declared dead many, many times—even by scholars associated with the theory through the early years of its development. This course will provide a critical introduction to postcolonial theory by working through the political and epistemological antagonisms that were at once constitutive of and destructive of postcolonial theory’s coherence. In so doing, we will consider questions pertaining to contemporary politics and economies of institutional knowledge: Why do modes of inquiry rise and fall? If fewer and fewer scholars undertake work under the banner of postcolonial theory today, what forms of knowledge bear the trace of the postcolonial moment? Units will include “Postcolonialism and Third Worldism,” “Postcolonialism and Marxism,” “Postcolonialism and Globalization,” Postcolonialism and World Literature,” “Postcolonialism and Indigeneity,” and more. (20th/21st)

The Age of Washington and Du Bois | ENGL 46800

Kenneth Warren

  • The goal of this course will be to examine and understand the literary responses of a small but important set of African American writers to the worsening political, social, and economic situation facing black Americans during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century—a period that his been described as the “nadir” of African American life. (18th/19th)

The Matter of Black Lives: Hurston and Wright | ENGL 27010/47310

Adrienne Brown

  • Despite being best known as adversaries—with Richard Wright notoriously accusing Zora Neale Hurston’s writing of being “cloaked in facile sensuality” and Hurston scorning Wright for his “tone deaf” and “grim” stories of “race hatred”—these two writers shared more commonalities than their feud suggests. This class will approach Hurston and Wright not as antagonists but as coworkers experimenting with how to represent something like collective black experience through different literary genres (both turning to autobiography, folklore, novels, short stories, op-eds, literary criticism, screenplays) and in response to social science methodologies (Wright’s faith in sociology vs. Hurston’s career as an anthropologist). In reframing their relationship to one another, this class will also trace a story of the development of African American literature in the early 20th century as refracted through Hurston and Wright’s varying commitments to representing black life as both a unifying and restrictive categorization. Undergrad: (B, G); Grad: (20th/21st)

The Slaves’ Narratives | ENGL 17920/47920

  • As rare first-person accounts of an institution that claimed the lives of millions, slave narratives occupy an important, almost sacred position in the history of American letters. In part, this course will offer a literary history of this genre of writing. We will consider the relationship of the slave narrative to other available genres of life writing: spiritual autobiography, captivity narratives, gallows narratives, and so on. We will consider a host of political problems that the slave narrative raises, such as: What levels of autonomy or agency could black writers hope to achieve in relation to white editors, sponsors, and abolitionist organizations? What is the evidentiary value of these narratives? How do the generic conventions of the slave narrative conscript black subjects into just giving “the facts” to white “philosophers,” as Frederick Douglass would critique, instead of enabling black subjects to theorize slavery and freedom in their own names? At the same time, we will explore print media not typically considered under the rubric of the “slave narrative” to thicken our understanding of black life-making in the shadow of slavery: legal petitions, court testimony, letters, and early novels. 

Anthropological Poetics | ENGL 56500

Edgar Garcia

  • This course explores the problematics that congeal when the disciplinary norms of anthropology and literary studies intersect. Since the 1970s, such anthropologists as James Clifford, Nestor Garcia Canclini, Paul Rabinow, and Donna Haraway have coordinated cultural analyses through concepts of representation, narrative, poetic form, and voice. Subsequently, poets and writers of the language school, indigenous background, and the ethnopoetics movement, among others, picked up on this anthropological mode to animate those concepts through anthropological concerns with reflexivity, textual thickness, interdiscursivity, metapragmatics, the posthuman, kinship, and intercultural semiotics. These intersections have overlaid literary objects with a kind of interdisciplinary noise, challenging what a literary object is and, as well, what objects we elect to think of as literature. This course will amplify that noise to trouble disciplinary norms of literary studies--especially the study of poetry and poetics--while also tuning into that trouble as a strategy of interpretation. Final papers will be methodological position pieces, orientating analyses of literary objects within this transdisciplinary flashpoint. (20th/21st)