English 170

Literature and the Arts: Rhythm, Riot, Revolution

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Gaydos, Rebecca
TTh 11-12:30 174 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

All texts for this course will be included in a reader, with listenings and viewings posted to a course website and each individual reading also made available digitally.

Our reader will include excerpts from selected literary works such as: Claudia Rankine, Citizen (2014); Kevin Young, The Grey Album (2012); Rita Dove, Sonata Mulattica (2009); Etheridge Knight, Belly Song and Other Poems (1973); Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems (1956); Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues (1926); Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1860); poems, songs, and spoken word by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Frank O’Hara, Saul Williams, Denice Frohman, Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Douglas Kearney, June Jordan, Gil Scott-Heron

It will also include excerpts from secondary texts such as: Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017); Jennifer Lynn Stoever, The Sonic Color Line (2016); Aniruddh D. Patel, Music, Language, and the Brain (2007); and Fred Moten, In the Break (2003)


What allows language to inspire change? To what extent is the power of a word rooted in its perception as sound and rhythm, shaped and reshaped by the individual histories and trainings of those who hear it? In this class, we will break down some of history’s most significant beats, investigate their perceived powers over time, and play them alongside the rhythms dominant in poetry and music today. We will also discuss the basic components of acoustics, psychoacoustics, neurology, and physiology that help us understand how we hear and interact with sound.

Student work for the semester will consist of regular readings, listenings, and viewings, attendance at live performance events (including dance, taiko, spoken word, and acrobatics events at Cal Performances), a series of written responses culminating in a substantial creative research project, and a semester-end conference presentation open to the public.

This class is funded by a joint grant from Cal Performances and The Mellon Foundation; all student tickets to live performances will be fully subsidized. Students enrolling in this course should be prepared to attend events on the following dates: Saturday, February 2; Friday, February 22; Thursday, March 21; Sunday, April 7.

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