Black Studies Courses Offered 2018-2019


Bodies of Transformation | ENGL 41500

C. Riley Snorton

  • Drawing on trans studies, disability studies, histories of science, queer and postcolonial theory, this class contends with how bodies and bodies of knowledge change over time. Bodies of Transformation takes a historiographic approach to the social, political, and cultural underpinnings of corporeal meaning, practice and performance in the 19th and 20th centuries. Animating questions include: what is the corporeal real? how is race un/like gender? how does bodily transformation map the complex relationships between coercion and choice?

The Afro-Arab World | ENGL 41562

Sophia Azeb

  • Where does the “Middle East” end and Africa begin? This course will explore how Arabic-speaking and African-descended peoples have engaged one another and the overlapping configurations of Blackness and Arabness that circulate in the African Diaspora. Against the backdrop of anti-colonialism and Civil Rights, many Africans and African Americans were inspired by Arab anti-colonial political innovations. As Arabs sought to define their independence struggles they looked to the transnational, emancipatory philosophies and movements that African Americans and other African diasporic figures pioneered. These exchanges result in surprising histories of solidarity and collaboration, like the Black Panther Party’s international chapter in Algiers, and the poet Claudia Rankine’s staging of French-Algerian footballer Zinedine Zidane’s coup de boule as a moving poem in Citizen. Through a historical and cultural survey of Black and Arab thought – a field of inquiry we will call “Afro-Arab Studies” – this class will examine the parallel and intersecting narratives of a range of notable Afro-Arab confluences, including but not limited to: négritude and pan-Arabism, the Non-Aligned and Pan-Africanist movements, and recent Black/ Palestinian solidarity organizing. In addition to Afro-Arab literature and poetry, readings will include narrative essays, biography, and cultural theory by such writers and scholars as James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, Shirley Graham Du Bois, and Radwa Ashour.

Race and Literature | ENGL 44606

Kenneth Warren

  • Although in the mid 1920s the poet Countee Cullen deemed it a puzzle why God would “make a poet black, and bid him sing,” it is arguable that from the rise of modernism, through what Mark McGurl calls The Program Era (designating the rise of creative writing programs as the dominant force shaping American literature), and into the present, it has become almost impossible to think of literature and race or identity as being at odds. To make poets and writers is to make them black, Asian, Latinx, etc. By reading a series of literary works and literary histories, we will seek to understand why making race and making identity have become co-implicated on the American scene. Texts: Walter Benn Michaels, Our America, Mark McGurl, The Program Era, William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!, Langston Hughes, The Big Sea, Claude McKay, Home to Harlem, Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, and Toni Morrison, A Mercy. This course will have a particular focus on guiding students through the conventions of academic writing in the Humanities.

The Global Plantation | ENGL 55603

Chris Taylor, Adam Getachew

  • From its emergence in the late-medieval Mediterranean, to the slave societies of the New World, through its late colonial heritage in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, the plantation has been a paradigmatic institution of racial-capitalist modernity. Through a range of texts that includes slave narratives, novels, political economy, sociological studies and recent histories of capitalism, this course explores how the plantation opened a vexed problem-space in which concepts central to the modern world (such as sovereignty, freedom, and labor) emerged, were debated, and continuously refigured. While the plantation is frequently figured as an institution of the past, this transnationally and transhistorically oriented course will examine a set of thinkers who argue for the aliveness of the plantation's present in the shaping of political, economic, and social trajectories in the postcolonial world. (18th/19th, 20th/21st)

The Pivotal Decade: 1970s Am Lit and the Rise of Inequality | ENGL 55801

Kenneth Warren

  • Historian Judith Stein argues that in the late 1970s (with Jimmy Carter in the White House and the Democratic Party holding majorities in both houses of Congress) "assumptions that capital and labor should prosper together" were replaced by "an ethic claiming that the promotion of capital will eventually benefit labor-trading factories for finance." It was this turn, Stein argues, that ushered in the "Age of Inequality" that still defines our present moment. In this course we will explore the relation of postmodernism and works by major American fiction writers, including Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Tom Wolfe, William Gaddis, to the rise of economic equality in the US. (20th/21st)