Course Description: Race and Witness in America
It’s 2015. Our public lives are frequently our occupations – we read and talk about controversies colored by social media and our own histories; we’ll focus on Black Lives Matter as to what it means to be a witness – even as students, teacher, or critical readers, thinkers, and writers – in America. In particular, race in America is no longer the same, or is perhaps the same for the stereotypes, diasporas, and violences we perpetuate and witness in this twentieth-first century. It’s also not the only “–ism” to be redefined, illuminated, and challenged: we’ll explore gender, class, and sexual orientation as forms of “otherness.”
To what extent can we appropriate human bodies and agency in the name of an art or greater good? If we can listen and read carefully enough, we can occupy other subjectivities; that is, to say, we can improve our writings and civic lives, which are connected to what happens outside the classroom.
The goal of this course is to improve your ability to critically think and write. In addition to contextualizing visual, musical, and print texts, you will conduct library and field research on your own controversy, which will be integrated into a semester-long project consisting of a research essay and public argument. We will return to the same question at the end: Can we really act as witness to another voice, even for our studies of language and its adaptations?
- #FergusonSyllabus, #CharlestonSyllabus (Rhetoric of the hashtag)
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, excerpt (2013)
- Hilton Als, White Girls, excerpts (2013)
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
- Carolyn Forché, Introduction to Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993)
- M.K. Hall, “Fortune and Riot” (2015)
- Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)
- Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
- HBO’s Vice News’ State of Emergency: Ferguson, Missouri, excerpts (2014)
- The Weinstein Company, Fruitvale Station (2013)
- Kanye West, “Blood on the Leaves” (2013)