English 250

Research Seminar: Black Cultures of Gender and Sexuality

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2020 Ellis, Nadia
Tues. 3:30-6:30 650 Barrows

Book List

Emezi, Akwaeke: Freshwater; Fanon, Frantz: Black Skin, White Masks; Hemphill, Essex: Ceremonies; Kay, Jackie: Trumpet; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Miller, Kei: The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion; Salkey, Andrew: Escape to an Autumn Pavement; Selvon, Sam: The Lonely Londoners

Other Readings and Media

Films & Television: Julie Dash, Daughters of the Dust; Shirley Jackson, Portrait of Jason; Barry Jenkins, Moonlight; Isaac Julien, The Attendant; Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning; Janet Mock, Steve Canals, et al, prod., Pose.

Course Reader will include essays and excerpts of critical work from writers including M. Jacqui Alexander, Judith Butler, Cathy Cohen, Rey Chow, Roderick Ferguson, Stuart Hall, Saidiya Hartman, Audre Lorde, José Esteban Muñoz, Robert Reid-Pharr, Christina Sharpe, C. Riley Snorton, Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley, and Gloria Wekker.

*Please consult course instructors before purchasing texts.


This seminar, offered in collaboration with the Department of African American Studies and co-taught with Professor Darieck Scott, explores theories and cultures of gender and sexuality from the perspective of black diasporic people. We will focus on the modern and contemporary eras, moving from the 1920s to the present day, but inevitably our texts will ask us to think critically about history and about time—about how the specific fragmentation and lineages of black cultures inform ideas about modernity. The course emphasizes articulations of sexuality and ideas of gender that move beyond those presented as normative. And we will think with critics who have learned from the experiences and practices of black diasporic people about how to articulate subjectivities within and between historical and theoretical traditions—critics such as Hortense Spillers, Cathy Cohen, Roderick Ferguson, Omise'eke Tinsley, Tavia Nyong'o, C. Riley Snorton, and Gloria Wekker, among many others. We'll traverse genres—fiction, poetry, film, television—and we'll think along with the artists and scholars we study about how questions of blackness, sexuality, and gender inform other epistemological categories drawn from such fields as religion, psychology, and geography. Students will write regular short pieces, make in-class presentations, engage with class visitors, and write a final research paper.

This section of English 250 is cross-listed with African American Studies 240 section 1.

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