Sonnet H. Retman
Topics in which students and faculty have developed an interest as a result of work done in other classes or as a result of the need to investigate in greater depth Afro-American Studies issues. Topics vary.
Drawing on fiction, poetry, prose, drama, films, and polemics, this course will explore the idea of a black aesthetic in various historical and political contexts within the 20th century. Specifically, we will focus on three moments of burgeoning black cultural production tied to political movements that attempt to harness art as a vehicle for change: the New Negro Movement of the 1920s and 30s, the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s and the Post-Soul/ Post-Black movement of the present. As we explore this series of debates about the possible grounds, contours and impact of black aesthetic practice, we will consider works of art that push this lively, often heated conversation in new ways. We will analyze how particular notions of a black aesthetic construct racial politics through an engagement with class, gender, and sexuality.
Student learning goals
Improve your ability to read, analyze, and discuss literary and cultural texts
Further develop your writing skills, especially your ability to state your ideas in a succinct, coherent manner and support them with close textual readings
Understand the broader social, historical and cultural contexts in which black literary and cultural production have evolved
Assess the impact of African American cultural production on artistic and intellectual movements of the past and the present
Enhance your sense of the multiple ways in which art can work as a tool for social change
General method of instruction
This class requires active engagement with the texts and with each other: come to class prepared to talk about the day's readings. Our interpretations of the texts will emerge through a pooling of responses and ideas. You will be held accountable for being prepared and ready to participate. Over the quarter, you will write one music or film review and two papers. You will also work with a group of students on a 10 minute presentation. You will post your responses to the texts and leading course questions five times throughout the quarter. You will receive handouts outlining the expectations for the papers, the presentation and your GoPost entries.
I recommend that you mark interesting passages as you read in the course pack. This will help you participate in class and ease into your writing. Over the quarter, you may be asked to complete occasional in-class writing assignments, which you should be ready to share with others in class. I encourage you to meet with me during office hours to discuss the readings and assignments.
Background in African American literature (AFRAM 214/ 258; AFRAM 358); African American history (AFRAM 150).
Class assignments and grading
Participation (discussion/ attendance) 20% Group Presentation 10% GoPost (200 word entries, 5 throughout the quarter) 10% Film or Music Review 10% Mid-term paper 20% Final paper 30%