New Year, New Course to Teach: Jan Term 043-01: “The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture”

 

After years and years and years of research, writing papers, presenting at conferences, not to mention living and breathing these topics in my every day life, for this January term 2018,  I will be teaching for twenty-six undergrads at Saint Mary’s College of California:

The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity

in Literature, Art & Pop Culture

COURSE DESCRIPTION

How do writers and artists such as Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Beyoncé, John Coltrane, Kara Walker, comedians like Key & Peele, and the creators of the show Broad City, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, 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.

REQUIRED TEXTS

  • Barbara Jane Reyes, Invocation to a Daughter
  • Junot Diaz, Drown 

READING LIST

  • Media Selections from Beyonce’s Lemonade and Key & Peele 
  • Art Selections from Kara Walker, Ramiro Gomez and Jennifer Wofford

Poetry and Essay Selections:

  • Carlos Soto Roman, 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”
  • Zadie Smith, “Brother from Another Mother”, The New Yorker, 2015.

We will be kicking off the semester with pre-assignments that include reading Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy, “Leaning In: A Student’s Guide to Engaging Constructively with Social Justice Content”, Radical Pedagogy, (2014) , Syreeta MacFadden’s  “Beyonce’s Formation reclaims America’s black America’s narrative from the margins” The Guardian, (February 8. 2016) and watching Beyonce’s “Formation” from Lemonade. Even more exciting is a class visit with poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes to discuss her latest book from City Lights, Invocation to a Daughter. With luck, I’ll be able to confirm more guest speakers.

Some of the questions I have to start, with hopefully many more to come, so the research, the writing, the living, and breathing can grow:

  1. How does art, literature, and pop culture help student understand their own positionality?
  2. How does art, literature, and pop culture help students understand the collective and individual racial imaginary? Male/Female imaginary? Class imaginary?
  3. How do students navigate, transform, challenge collective (public) and private (individual) narratives?

I’m of two hearts and minds about the course, since I probably won’t get much writing done myself, but instead will be discussing topics that fuel me and drive me with purpose and heighten meaning, hopefully not just for myself but for the willing students. Let’s see what this new adventure holds. Ready. Steady. Go!

Latest short story “With Hummingbird in Hand” published by Australian-based journal “Kurungabaa”

Over ten years in the making, after hundreds of revisions and countless reincarnations, my short story, “With Hummingbird in Hand,” will finally see the light of day thanks to the editors at the Australian-based journal Kurungabaa.

Here’s an excerpt:

The oil in the deep fryer bubbled and cracked as Yesenia and Claudia orchestrated the breakfast shift. Parked in a littered alley next to a super-sized Home Depot in a ragged quarter of East Hollywood, Yesenia’s mobile kitchen, Mariscos de Madrugada, served as a beacon for over-worked souls who scrambled through gridlock, measuring their lives by paychecks and commutes. Outside their kitchen, police sirens blared, cars backfired, and horns honked. The mariachis they hired to entertain their hungry customers played at the curbside. The trim of their charro outfits gleamed in the early morning sun as the rush of orders kept coming.

Check out the original announcement on Kurungabaa’s website, where you can pick up a copy for yourself.

Latest Issue Vol4 No1 © 2012!

  • Vol. 4 No. 1 out now!


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Prose

Derek Hynd

Susan  Gottlieb

Rebecca Olive

Louise Victoria Jeffredo

Shaun Tomson

Aga Maksimowska

Michael Scott Moore

Greg  Bogaerts

Cori Schumacher

Andrea Frost

Brian Barbeito

Carole Lander

Clifton Evers

Madelaine Dickie

Byron Alexander Campbell

Rashaan Meneses

Taylor Claire Miller

Poems

Kim Satchell

Corrina Cop Rain  Mcfarlane

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Susan  Adams

Louise Victoria Jeffredo

Trevor Abes

Carolyn Abbs

Celeste Snowber

Mara  Nichols

Rhonda Melanson

Art

Dane Peterson

Hugo  Muecke

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Note that the current issue is available in hard copy (the real rag) at the following fine establishments:

  •  Six Ounce Board Store, Manly

  • The Sugarmill, Narabeen

  • The Top Shop, Byron Bay (behind the counter)

     

How it went down at this year’s ACTC 2012: “Preparing for and Living in the Real World through Core Texts”

This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel

“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:

Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”

Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University

Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:

Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-

  • China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
  • self in search of self
  • self as social institutions
  • Liberal Studies as training for life
  • introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory

From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-

  • argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
  • more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
  • Rational thinking limits
  • “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
  • Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith

From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”

  • education as a cultural mission
  • educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
  • seeking harmony not sameness
  • having a sense of appropriate conduct

From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)

  • one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
  • alienation requires confrontation
  • those who create new values need an audience to receive

This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.