A new year, a new chance to teach a class that is my life’s work. Once again, for January Term 2019 at Saint Mary’s College, yours truly is teaching “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture”. For four weeks, four days a week, two hours and thirty-five minutes a day, our class will read, screen, listen, and view art, literature, music, TV shows, and other creative works that reconstruct, reclaim, interrogate, re-imagine, re-invent, subvert, and explode notions of race, of gender, of ethnicity, and of sexuality.
New titles have been added to last year’s reading list, such as Tommy Orange’s, There, There and Allan de Souza’s How Art Can Be Thought. Our class will have a special class visit from poet and author liz gonzalez, where we’ll read and discuss her latest book Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds. And, to top it all off, we have a class field trip to the Museum of African Diaspora, which yours truly is both excited and nervous to coordinate.
In teaching this class for the second time around, I’ve found, once again, how hungry students are to learn and share experiences, thoughts and questions about race, racism, our U.S. history, and legacy. I’ve also found that students are primed and prepped to discuss these incredibly difficult and complex issues.
More to come as we venture into the second week, so stay tuned…
The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture
How do writers and artists such as David Mura, Tommy Orange, Harryette Mullen, Beyoncé, Kara Walker, and other historically marginalized creative practictioners, subvert, de-center, and make new notions of race, identity, gender, and sexual orientation? How do they challenge cultural otherness to incite as writer Pankaj Mishra calls “a bolder cartography of the imagination”? In this class we will explore how writers, musicians, artists, and comedians make stylistic choices of form and content to challenge dominant narratives and put center stage traditionally marginalized voices, neglected histories, and sub-histories. The aim of this course is to discover how art can complicate and challenge some of our greatest public narratives: race and gender; and how these narratives serve as writer Kaitlyn Greenridge says as a “collective and imagined space that exists only as a metaphor, rhetorical argument, figurative language, in short, as a fiction, though that does not mean that [they are] not real.”
Reading from diverse authors and viewing other artistic forms, we will consider the many different ways art and pop culture help us understand and challenge identity and politics, and conversely how we can interrogate notions of identity and politics to create art that incites a world awareness.
- Tommy Orange, There, There
- liz gonzalez, Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds
- Allen deSouza, How Art Can Be Thought
Media Selections from Beyonce’s Lemonade, Key & Peele, El mar la Mar
Art Selections from Kara Walker, Ramiro Gomez and Jennifer Wofford
Poetry and Essay Selections:
- Harryette Mullen, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be, “Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded”, “Kinky Quatrains: The Making of Muse & Drudge”, “Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness”
- Kevin Young, The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, “The Shadow Book”, “How Not to Be a Slave: On the Black Art of Escape”
- Dorothy Wang, Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry
- John Yau, “Please Wait By the Coatroom”
- Diane Glancy,In-between Places, “July: She has some potholders”
- David Mura, A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing