The Empire Writes Back
This course introduces students to the advanced study of selected works of European, Asian, African, and Latin American literature (in English translation), from historical and cultural perspectives. Using “canonical” narratives, their literary reinterpretations, and postcolonial responses, students are asked to consider and discuss the relevance of these revisions on our understanding of how cultural productions (films, novels, poetry, and plays) shape history and vice versa.
This course introduces students to the advanced study of select Shakespearean reinterpretations from Indian, African, Caribbean, and Israeli perspectives. Using postcolonial Shakespearean-inspired works and critical analyses, students will be asked to consider and discuss the relevance of these revisions on our understanding of how cultural productions (films, novels, poetry, music, and plays) shape history and vice versa.
Ain't I a Woman?
This course serves as an introduction to feminist theories and practices of women’s oppression and liberation, and the characteristics of various women’s movements around the world. Using a variety of genres-fiction, poetry, scholarly criticism, film, music, and visual imagery-students analyze major theoretical perspectives in feminist discourse. Moving from the nineteenth-century to the present, we examine systems of privilege and inequality in women’s lives, ways that gender is inscribed on the body, women’s work inside and outside the home, sexuality and reproductive rights, the representation of women in the media, wage work, and mothering. Finally, we also explore our own assumptions about gender, sex, and race, the power and limits of these perspectives, and the relationship between feminist theory and practice.
Booked! Sentenced! Barred! African-American Confinement Stories
This course uses African-American narratives of confinement – autobiographies, novels, short stories, poems, and films – to examine the struggles of Blacks for liberation from places/spaces of literal and figurative imprisonment. Among the issues the course explores are the constructions of criminality, culturally-specific responses to incarceration and other forms of confinement, the economic impact of prisons on America’s economy, and so forth.
African American Musical & Literary Traditions
This course is designed to introduce students to the artistic impact of American historical events and trends such as slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the Great Migration, and Black Nationalism on the joint development of African-American musical and literary traditions. Beginning with slave songs and other forms of oral expressions prominent during slavery, to the Negro spiritual, gospel, the Blues, Jazz, & Hip Hop, students will explore the ways in which these musical genres influenced Black writers. We will examine the lives of African-American composers, both literary and musical, and the social structures within which they lived. Students’ engagement in this class will enhance their musical and literary enjoyment, improve your basic knowledge of music and literary styles, and enable them to use this knowledge to analyze their reading, listening, research, and writing about various genres, including the novel, short story, the lyric, film, and poem. “Composers” students study include: James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Akon, Young Jeezy, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, J.B. Lenoir, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, among others.
This course serves as an introduction to some of the major authors of Caribbean writing in English and English translation. The course is framed conceptually by the categories of (and contestations surrounding) language, history, and culture. Students will enlarge the scope of their literary competence by gaining some fluency in a literature that may be comparatively new to them. By the end of this course, students should have expanded their definition of “literature,” enlarged the scope of their literary competence by gaining some fluency in a literature that is comparatively new to them, gained a broader understanding of the impact of history on the formation of a Caribbean canon, developed a deeper appreciation of the pleasures and values of Caribbean literature and culture, cultivated an awareness of the function of Caribbean literature in the fight for independence from colonial/imperial powers, and garnered a new perspective on the power of literature to change oneself and the world.
This course introduces students to the oral and literary traditions of Africa and to some of the continent’s diverse cultural practices and social issues. In fact, African literature is a significant component of world literature (with several Nobel prize and other world literary award winners). African populations and cultural practices constitute crucial elements of the national heritages of the USA, Britain, the Caribbean, Europe, and almost all the countries in South America.
Broadly speaking, this course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental role of the arts in the fight of individuals, groups, and nations for civil rights and democracy. More specifically, however, we will comparatively examine the social, systemic, and political structures that impact(ed) the lives of African-Americans in the pre- and post- Civil Rights eras and South Africans in the pre- and post-apartheid periods from both a literary and historical perspective.
In a land that claims to be the greatest advocate of democracy and civil rights in the world, why are more prisons than schools being built? Why does America lead Western nations in the number of persons incarcerated? Why are they behind countries like China and Iran in the number of people it executes? Why, like Somalia, is it among the few nations to execute juveniles? What factors account for the disproportionate number of minorities and the poor represented in America’s criminal justice system? Why do women represent the fastest growing segment of the population going to jail? Is prison an actual deterrent to crime? Why has prison become a “resort” for some offenders? Has incarceration become a form of neo-slavery in the United States? The course will utilize texts from various disciplinary perspectives to provide great springboards through which students might explore some of the complexities of criminal justice in the United States, the criminalization of various segments of American society, and the ways in which the nation and corporations benefit from crime.
Daughters of the Soil: Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Literary Imaginations of Edwidge Danticat and Julia Alvarez
Two distinct nations, one land mass, Haiti and the Dominican Republic also share histories and traditions captured by two of their most prolific writers. Edwidge Danticat of Haiti and Julia Alvarez of the Dominican Republic are daughters of the soil, each with her fingers on the pulse of the issues facing their nations, and inevitably, their literary paths must intersect. Covered in their works are the common issues of poverty, racial, gender, and class oppression, and the struggles of their people to fight, overcome, and thrive against these scourges through immigration, language, and education. Biography and experience are wielded into their fiction, non-fiction, poems, and short-stories with an uncommon touch.
African American Drama
This course is a sustained assessment of trends in dramatic texts authored by African-Americas that are reflections of both personal ideologies as well as the results of conditions imposed by milieu. It also traces the routes/roots of African-American theatre by looking at the work of representative playwrights, and the contributions of selective Black thespians..
Race and Sports
How have organized athletics in the United States served as an arena of protest, power, social stratification and acculturation? Who determines the meaning of athletic achievement and the representation of athletes of color? How have sports shaped notions of race, gender, and status in American society? How do we reconcile sports’ roles as cultural, social, and financial institutions when considering issues of race? This course uses sports as a framework to examine the development of race relations, primarily in the United States. With particular attention to the experiences of African American athletes, we also compare the racial politics of specific sports (ex: soccer) in other parts of the world. Our readings will combine primary source documents and a wide variety of texts in varied formats to explore the role of black athletes at critical moments in American history.
Student Activism: Protest Models, Movements, & Organizations
Whether they were protesting the use of Afrikaans as their language of instruction in South Africa in 1976, fighting apartheid in South Africa, dictatorships in China, Hong Kong and Iran, segregation in the United States or the racist policies of Nazi Germany, students have long served as the moral conscience of their communities and nations. This course examines the strategies that students in the United States and around the world have used to combat oppressive institutional, political, and global regimes and social, environmental and economic policies that enacted violence and inequality among the world’s poor. Organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the United States, the South African Student Organization, the National Union of South African Students Congress (NUSAS), the German Socialist Student Union, the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) in Canada, and the National Union of Students in Australia, among others, have provided current-day students with blueprints for student activism.