English R1B

Reading & Composition: Black Radical Thought, From David Walker to Kendrick Lamar

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2017 Muhammad, Ismail
MTuW 2:00-4:30 214 Haviland A

Book List

Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Dubois, W.E.B.: Souls of Black Folk; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen

Other Readings and Media

Film: Khalil Joseph, "Until the Quiet Comes (Short fillm, 2012); Khalil Joseph, "m.A.A.d. City" (Short film, 2014); Kendrick Lamar, "Alright" (Music video, 2015); Beyoncé, "Lemonade" (Short Film/Music video, 2016)

Music: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

A course reader, including short texts by David Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Mackey, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be provided.


(Note the changes in instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this class as of March 29.)

In this course, we'll consider the origins and concerns of a radical African American intellectual tradition. Working with a variety of texts, including slave narratives, poetry, music, and film, we'll trace the debates that structure black radical thought, with special attention to the political and social concerns that occasion such thought. What constitutes a distinctly African American tradition of political and social discourse? In what ways is this tradition central to the history of American democratic politics? How does it diverge from such politics in search of more utopian possibilities? What is this tradition's relationship to American capitalism? How do these texts articulate "blackness" while shying away from essentialist identity politics? How and why do conceptions of race/racism intersect with gender/sexuality? What is the connection between blackness and queer or otherwise non-normative gender/sexual identities? What has changed in American life as a result of black radical thought? What issues persist despite it?

Throughout this course, you will be working to find and improve your voice as both a critical writer and researcher. You will write two short essays to sharpen your close reading and writing skills. In addition, you will conduct short biweekly research assignments into topics that you find particularly interesting. These assignments will form the basis of a research paper on how a literary, cinematic, or musical text investigates an historical problem of your choosing. These papers will meditate on aspects of race, class, and/or gender. We will hone skills like sentence craft, effective argumentation, critical thinking, source gathering, and proper use of secondary materials.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session A, from May 22 to June 28.

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