"Professors who embrace the challenge of self-actualization will be better able to create pedagogical practices that engage students, providing them with ways of knowing that enhance their capacity to live fully and deeply."
--bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress

Introduction to Africana Studies

This course introduces students to the academic discipline of Africana Studies which emerged in the 1960s and centers the subjectivity and humanity of people within the African Diaspora and continental Africa. Several key areas, such as Black history, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, religion, and creative production, are under exploration via an Africana Studies lens. The course conveys the significance of studying and understanding such areas from this perspective in classrooms as well as the broader community. In the course, students will read an array of sources from established and up-and-coming scholars of the discipline to complement the interpretation provided in the course’s central textbook. Most of the material in the course has a US context (the location in which the discipline was formally established), though contexts from several areas of the African Diaspora, including the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe, are highlighted as well. With an ultimate goal of liberation and transformation in mind, the course moves from an examination of pre-colonial Africa to contemporary society.

Africana Urban Woman

This course introduces students to literature by African American, Caribbean, and African women writers. Published within the last two decades, the novels in the course detail the lives of female protagonists who learn to adjust to family, educational, economic, and other social changes while navigating urban spaces. Using critical perspectives within Africana Studies, the course teaches students to examine and understand the cultural, historical and theoretical contexts surrounding the literary works. Students will also become more skilled in conducting detailed analyses of literary features, such as voice, language, structure and style, to better comprehend the characters’ quest for self-fulfillment. In addition to closely reading the texts and providing thorough critiques, students will identify and assess the use of a wide range of real-life themes in the narratives, including structural inequality, immigration, motherhood, gender, identity, crime and violence, to further explore the insight that the readings offer on urban environments and lifestyles.

Contemporary Caribbean Literature

This course introduces students to several of the major men and women writers in the Anglophone Caribbean literary canon with inclusion of some writers from the Hispanophone and Francophone Caribbean. Consisting of popular literary works from the late twentieth century to today, the course addresses a range of themes associated with those making up the Caribbean region such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, exile, migration, identity, language, class, community, colonialism, and postcolonialism. The role of intersectionality and its impact on the livelihoods of characters and Caribbean citizens is a significant thread in the course. Cultural assumptions about gender in Caribbean nations as well as the social construction of gender in various Caribbean communities will be under scrutiny in our readings each week. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama are dispersed throughout the semester, and the course highlights the cultural, historical and theoretical contexts surrounding the works to better explore the insight that the readings provide on Caribbean life and thought.

African American  Literature

This course is a survey course in which we will study representative works from the nineteenth century to the present, including the works of such writers as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Paule Marshall, and Maya Angelou. The major thematic focus of this course is “life writing,” which encompasses writings such as autobiographies, memoirs, and slave narratives. Scholars note that “life writing” is a critical form in African American literature as it established a foundation for the field. Our examination of various works will allow a vibrant discussion about the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction. The works we study will, of course, be examined within their historical contexts for the insight they give on African-American life and thought. However, our primary focus will be a literary analysis that emphasizes their distinctiveness as creative art requiring critical engagement. Throughout the course, we will examine also how the African-American literary tradition has been created. Some of the questions we will answer include: What goes into the formation of a literary tradition? How are the usual factors complicated when the authors creating the tradition belong to a group of people who have been forcibly subordinated within the society? We will also examine the creative tension between the aesthetic and social/political concerns of the writers we study.

Introduction to African Literature

This course explores men and women writers from several countries across the continent of Africa and invokes various social, political, historical, and theoretical particularities associated with the region and its literature. It introduces students to several of the major authors in the African literary canon, and the fiction in the course (written or translated into English) is from the late 1950s to the 2000s. A number of scholars note that the emergence of modern African literature in the late 1950s and early 1960s served the purpose of liberating African subjects from the colonial order of things. Much of the fiction in these early years within the genealogy of contemporary African literature possesses an optimistic tone; yet, a great deal of the writing from the late 1960s onward displays extreme despair and pessimism. The heart-wrenching portrayals reflect what is known as the Africa crisis—characterized by realities such as abject poverty, rampant violence, and authoritarian governments. With this premise in mind, this course seeks to answer: what role does literature play in the African postcolony or how does this art form associate with the politics of everyday life in modern African societies?

Man/Woman Literature

This course examines the various ways African American, Caribbean, and African men and women writers frame gender in their fiction. The literary and theoretical works we will read this semester interrogate practices, beliefs, debates and sociopolitical struggles around issues of gender. Aside from examining the intersectionality of race, gender, class, sexuality, and national identity, we will explore the social construction of gender and cultural assumptions about gender around topics such as family dynamics, romantic relationships, girlhood/boyhood, masculinity/femininity, body politics, sexual violence, gender equality, and parenthood. The influences of popular culture factor greatly into the course as well. Ultimately, the course seeks to answer: what is the significance of gender portrayals in creative literary works? Who and what influences such portrayals? Are the portrayals idealistic or realistic reflections of gender in societies?