Thursday, July 19, 2007

To Be A Problem: Outcast Subjectivity and Black Literary Production

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“To Be A Problem”

Outcast Subjectivity and Black Literary Production
Instructor: Alexis Pauline Gumbs

This class will reinvoke DuBois’s 1903 question (“How does it feel to be a problem?”) and challenge the response that has sought to foreclose black feminist and queer critiques within the (so-called) black community: “Shh. We have enough problems.” We will explore trouble-making, radical performative critique and the transgressive and embattled act of (visual, textual, sonic and multi-media) publishing as possible responses to systemic and individual exclusions. If publishing is an act of stolen power for outcasts, this class will be a publication of what it can mean to be problematic in a society inflected by race, class, sexuality and gender norms. Our aim is not to solve the problems of classism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia as inflected by race, but rather is to create a space where it is possible to act, speak, write and think otherwise, anyway.

Required Texts:

Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle, (Picador 2nd Edition, 2001)
Michelle Cliff, Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant (Dutton, 1993)
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (Library of America: Vintage Books, 1990)
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, (Crossing Press Feminist Series, 1984)
Toni Morrison, Sula (Plume, 2002)
Me’shell Ndegeocello, Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape (Maverick, 2002)*
Letta Neely, Here, (Wildheart Press, 2001)
The Roots, Game Theory (Def Jam, 2006)*
Natasha Tretheway, Bellocq’s Ophelia (GrayWolf Press, 2002)
Richard Wright, The Outsider, (Harper Perennial, 2003)
*Musical Albums

Foundations (Weeks 1-3):

Week 1: An/Other Way to Be

8/27 Introductions or What’s in a Name?

8/29 “Forethought” and “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in DuBois Souls of Black Folk
“Ethno or Socio Poetics” by Sylvia Wynter (on e-reserves)

8/31 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #1 Due)

Week 2: At Stake—Violence

9/3 “Southern Horrors” Ida B. Wells (e-reserves),
A Long Walk Home,

9/5 “Need: A Chorale for Black Women’s Voices” by Audre Lorde (on e-reserves)

(interactive performance #1)

9/7 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #2 Due)

my hands/wishful thinking by Mendi Obadike (PhD Duke U 2004)

Week 3: Dis/ease

9/10 Cathy J. Cohen, Introduction in Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999) (on e-reserves)

9/12 “U.S. Launches AIDS-Awareness Campaign In Botswana”

9/14 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #3 Due)

Positions (Weeks 4-9):

Week 4: Black Enough?

9/17 in class screening of Aaron McGruder’s “The Bookdocks”
(you are expected to have done extensive internet research on McGruder before class)

9/19 Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle

9/21 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #4 Due)

Week 5: Mindful

9/24 “Being Black” from Franz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (on e-reserves)

9/26 The Outsider by Richard Wright

9/28 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #5 Due)

Week 6: Nobody Knows: Queer Epistemologies

10/1 from Nobody Knows My Name James Baldwin (e-reserves) “I am Your Sister” from Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

10/3 Here: (poems) by Letta Neely

10/5 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #6 Due)

Week 7: Some of Us Are Brave

10/8 NO CLASS! Fall Break

10/10 Sula by Toni Morrison, (in-class reading of “Between Ourselves” by Audre Lorde)

10/12 Cyber-class (Post Assignment (on Sula) #7 Due)

Week 8: Some of Us Are Brave Continued

10/15 “Falling Through the Cracks” by Advocates for Youth

10/17 Free Enterprise by Michelle Cliff

10/19 Cyber-class (Post #8 Due)

Week 9

10/22 Spread Magazine: Illuminating the Sex Industry (selections on e-reserves)

10/24 Bellocq’s Ophelia Natasha Tretheway

10/26 Cyber-class (PAPER DUE)

Models of Response (Weeks 10-12)

Week 10: Music and Fashion

10/29 Game Theory by the Roots and Cookie by Me’shell Ndgeocello

10/31 Wear an outfit you are prepared to explain. Bring a song (on CD) that responds to some of the issues that have come up this semester. (Web-assignment to be distributed.)

11/2 Cyber-class (Post #10 Due)

Week 11: HTTP and DIY

11/5 Reportbacks about blackrebel websites

11/7 (comparative distro/website research) In the People’s Hands (distributed in class)
(class meets @ the Sallie Bingham Archive)

11/9 Cyber-class (Post #11 on the ‘zine you would create)

Week 12: Collective Organizing

11/12 The Combahee River Collective Statement (e-reserves) Sista II Sista (on e-reserves) the Trans-Justice Statement (e-reserves)

11/14 Guest Workshop by SpiritHouse (preparatory reading to be announced)

11/16 Cyber-class (Post #12 Due)

Make Something (Weeks 13-15)

Week 13: Impulsive Acts

11/19 Collective Action Experiment (facilitated by UBUNTU Artistic Response)

11/21 NO CLASS!

11/23 Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 14: Do You

11/26 Project Presentations

11/28 Project Presentations

11/30 Cyber-class (last post—on revised projects…due)

Week 15

12/3 In-class zine production.

12/5 In-class zine production continued.

12/7 Release Party!


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