Note: consent of instructor required.
In her 2011 Sister Citizen, political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry suggested that the racial and gender stereotypes that confront Black women place them in “a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up.” In this course, we will explore how a wide range of artists, across a variety of genres and forms, have figured out how to stand in the crooked room or shattered its ceiling and walls by wielding what Toni Morrison, in 1996, called “God’s language”—the movement from memory to creation to narrative and back to memory. We will also examine music, film, sculpture, poetry, and prose that reconceive womanhood, imagination, the rural south and the urban north, freedom, and the American dream—whether by recasting troubling history (Robin Coste Lewis’s poetry collection Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems); celebrating femme decadence (Solange Knowles’s album A Seat at the Table); or turning a family drama into a story of haunting and lies (Kasi Lemmons’s film Eve’s Bayou). Students are expected to engage, challenge, and assist one another as we think, speak, and write about how history, memory, narrative, and performance intersect with identity, power, place, culture, desire, imagination, and art. Other course texts may include: Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha; Michelle Obama’s Becoming; Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed; Kara Walker’s monumental sculpture, A Subtlety; and other works by Lorraine Hansberry, Nina Simone, Zora Neale Hurston, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Audre Lorde, Janelle Monae, and Toni Morrison. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to select texts for and lead discussions about issues relevant to their specific areas of concentration and life experiences.