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Instructor:Alexis Pauline Gumbs


“To Be A Problem”

Outcast Subjectivity and Black Literary Production

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)

*Musical Albums

Foundations (Weeks 1-3):

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

Week 1: Foundations 

9/10 “Forethought” and “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” in DuBois Souls of Black Folk
“Ethno or Socio Poetics” by Sylvia Wynter (google-group file)

9/14 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #1 Due)

Week 2: At Stake—Violence

9/17 “Mob Rule in New Orleans” Ida B. Wells (googlegroup file),
A Long Walk Home www.alongwalkhome.org

 “Need: A Chorale for Black Women’s Voices” by Audre Lorde (google-group file)

my hands/wishful thinking by Mendi Obadike (PhD Duke U 2004) http://obadike.tripod.com/Adiallo2.html

9/21 Posts Due

Week 3: Dis/ease

9/24 Cathy J. Cohen, Introduction in Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999) (on e-reserves)

“U.S. Launches AIDS-Awareness Campaign In Botswana” http://www.theonion.com/content/node/40976

9/28 Posts Due

Positions (Weeks 4-9):

Week 4: Black Enough?

10/1 Promo from Aaron McGruder’s “The Bookdocks: Season 2”

Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle

10/5 Posts Due

Week 5: Mindful

10/8 “Being Black” from Franz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (google file)

10/12 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #5 Due)

Week 6: Nobody Knows: Queer Epistemologies

10/15  from Nobody Knows My Name James Baldwin (google-file)

 “I am Your Sister” from Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

 Here: (poems) by Letta Neely (google files)

10/19 Cyber-class (Post Assignment #6 Due)

Week 7: Some of Us Are Brave


Sula by Toni Morrison,

“Between Ourselves” by Audre Lorde (google-file)

10/26 Cyber-class (Post Assignment (on  #7 Due)

Week 8: Some of Us Are Brave Continued

10/29 “Falling Through the Cracks” by Advocates for Youth

Free Enterprise by Michelle Cliff

11/2 Cyber-class (Post #8 Due)

Week 9

11/5 Spread Magazine: Illuminating the Sex Industry (selections  as google files)

 Bellocq’s Ophelia Natasha Tretheway

11/9 Posts Due

Models of Response (Weeks 10-12)

Week 10: Music and Fashion

11/12 Game Theory by the Roots and Cookie by Me’shell Ndgeocello

11/16 Cyber-class (Post #10 Due exchange radical playlists)

Week 11: HTTP and DIY

11/19 blackrebel websites (list send via email)

11/23 Cyber-class (Post #11 on the ‘zine you would create)

Week 12: Collective Organizing

11/26 The Combahee River Collective Statement (google-file) Sista II Sista (google-file) the Trans-Justice Statement (google-file)

11/30 Cyber-class (Post #12 Due)

Make Something (Weeks 13-15)

Wrap up: Posts about your community projects.  Thoughts about your next steps for implementation.



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