ENGL 152: Direct Action & Other Political Acts in Black Cultural Texts

In this expository writing course we will write our way toward positions on the following questions while also developing stronger college essay skills. What sorts of actions become politicized differently when performed by black bodies? How do we map the dimensions of black direct action when mere eye contact, for example, once constituted an act of defiance against the racial order, punishable by death? How have the methods and aims of black direct action shifted over time? Where is the line between violence and nonviolence; when does it shift or blur? Together we will explore how various literary forms give shape and insight into the legacies of black political gestures and demands for freedom. Forms of cultural production to be examined in this course include slave narratives, memoir, speeches, zines, poetry, op-eds, manifestos, short stories, novels, film, visual art, and criticism.

ENGL 254T: 'As If Her Mouth Were A Weapon': Jamaica Kincaid

This course explores the work of the internationally renowned author Jamaica Kincaid. We will wrestle with her commentary on concepts and conditions such as death; the afterlife of slavery and colonialism; family relations; love, romance, their absence and their entanglement with hatred; and illness. We will pay particular attention to character and author navigation of negative affects and the blurred boundaries between fiction and autobiography. Course texts include Annie John (1985), Lucy (1990), The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), My Brother (1997), Mr. Potter (2002), and See Now Then (2013). They will be examined through the lenses of race, gender, sexuality, class and citizenship and aided by supplemental readings. This course will explore the power that structures and determines or constrains labor and citizenship status; abortion, reproduction and mothering; memory, literacy and archival production; and more.

ENGL 218: Gender & Sexuality in the Neo-Slave Narrative

Hortense Spillers has noted that ex-slave Harriet Jacobs, “between the lines of her narrative, demarcates a sexuality that is neuterbound” and we live with the aftermath of her observation. “Ungendering,” one of the transformations undergone by bodies subjected to the Middle Passage, is one of the keywords that forms the foundation for a conversation about slavery, gender, and sexuality. Throughout this course we will wrestle with the questions: How does the designation “slave” rupture, reify, or expand our understandings of sexuality and gender? What conditions have necessitated the neo-slave narrative form? Texts include: slave narratives and neo-slave narratives in the forms of novels such as Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred and Jewelle Gomez’s Gilda Stories, comics such as Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner, visual art such as Kerry James Marshall’s Heirlooms and Accessories, and film such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out. This course contributes to the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative by investigating the power of whiteness in shaping consent and coercion for black subjects and determining belonging and exclusion to the categories of gender and sexuality.

ENGL 132: Black Writing To/From/About Prison


ENGL 309: Thinking Diaspora: The Black Atlantic and Beyond


ENGL 346: Negative Affects in African American Literature


ENGL 355: Asexuality and Other Absences

This introductory course considers the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans as it is represented on the page. Keywords for meditation and analysis include blackness, gender, prison, justice, freedom, and abolition. Each reading and class discussion will aid students in developing rigorous and nuanced understandings of these terms. The primary project in this course is the development of open letter writing skills. This epistolary form allows both for the intimate engagement of individual, familiar contact and the deft inclusion of targeted eavesdroppers in order to raise the consciousness of listeners and affirm the value of personal relationships. Course texts will include letters to and from prison; documentaries; selections from anthologies like If They Come in the Morning and Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex; autobiographies like that by Malcolm X, Walidah Imarisha, and Assata Shakur; poetry by Ericka Huggins, Huey Newton, and Terrance Hayes; and critical interventions by scholars like Nikki Jones, Victor Rios, Michelle Alexander, and Angela Davis. We will also look at contemporary groups organizing around abolition and prisoner support including Critical Resistance, Photos From Solitary, and TGIJP (Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project).

Water imagery has been central to black diasporic culture since its beginnings in the Middle Passage—suggesting imprisonment, isolation, escape, ancestral communion, and death, for example. This course wrestles with the significance of water in diasporic literature–how it endures, how it has diminished, how it slips away from us. Black diaspora theory was revolutionized by Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, which urged us to consider more deeply the role of the ship, the routes, and the roots entailed in the formation of diasporic consciousness. This course aims to expand students’ theoretical skills as we discuss cornerstone and cutting edge texts of diaspora theory, with an emphasis on theories that work with the relationship to water, such as those by Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Omise’eke Tinsley. and Vanessa Agard-Jones. Primary texts will include The Big Sea by Langston Hughes, Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, and more.

“My pessimism was stronger than my longing,” wrote Saidiya Hartman in her genre-breaking Lose Your Mother in her search for the afterlife of kinship in the remains of a Ghanaian slave fort. In this course we will discuss a mixture of contradictory “bad” feelings burdening the individual and the collective; for example, how hope and desire compete in Hartman’s statement with habituated disappointment and exhaustion. How do black subjects creatively overcome the racial foreclosure to write and recite violence, rage, refusal, anxiety, depression, idleness, grief, silence, etc.? And, further, how do we make sense of the sorts of affects that become negative when practiced by black subjects, such as love, empathy, and desire? Together, we will explore interventions by critical theorists of blackness, gender, and sexuality including Saidiya Hartman, Darieck Scott, Abdul JanMohamed, Christina Sharpe, Frantz Fanon, Ann Cvetkovich, Heather Love, and Lauren Berlant to assist us in confronting the sometimes perilous terrain of negative expression for black subjects. Primary texts will include work by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Kara Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, and Richard Wright. This course will be driven by student discussion and collaboration. This course contributes to the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative by meditating on the collision of the burden of representation with individual experiences of bad feelings.

What is asexuality? The asexual individual is commonly defined as “one who does not experience sexual attraction” but, under examination, this keyword quickly gives way a growing body of meanings, feelings, affiliations, and associations. How might asexuality transform or expand our understandings of sexuality, desire, romance, legibility, health, and violence? This seminar will explore the emergent field of asexuality studies while examining various kinds of sexual and romantic absences in contemporary fiction, film, and new media with particular attention to race and disability. How might asexuality disrupt or reify our conceptions of these terms of embodiment?