Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Abdourahman Waberi

Fall Syllabus #1: Afrofuturism!

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By luck, I’m able to teach the Africana literatures class this semester — a class I’ve always wanted to do but would be four or five back in the priority list in a normal semester. The theme (of course) is “Afrofuturism,” and spends about a third of its time in America, about a third of its time in America thinking about Africa, and about a third of its time in Africa. I’m excited! Here’s the description and schedule; full syllabus with policies and assignments here…

Greg Tate has said that “Black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.” This course takes up the nexus of intersections between black history and the radical black imagination that is commonly called Afrofuturism, focusing in particular of figurations of Africa as a space of science fictional possibility from both sides of the Atlantic. If Afrofuturism has been, as Kodwo Eshun has said, “a program for recovering the histories of counter-futures created in a century hostile to Afrodiasporic projection,” how does the rise of Africa as a global economic powerhouse in the twenty-first-century transform our understanding of black futurity? 2018’s smash hit Black Panther is only the most vivid registration of the ongoing global importance of the Afrofuturist imagination; from comics to film and television to literature to music videos to social media we will trace Afrofuturism across the twenty-first century cultural landscape.

T Aug 28 FIRST DAY OF CLASS
What Is Afrofuturism?
film (in class): Sun Ra, Space Is the Place (1974) (excerpts)
Th Aug 30 Mark Bould, “The Ships Landed Long Ago” [D2L]
film (in class): John Akomfrah, The Last Angel of History(1996)
T Sep 4 Sable Elyse Smith, “Ordinary Violence” [museum]
MEET AT THE HAGGERTY        
Th Sep 6 film (in-class): Get Out(2017)
T Sep 11 film: Jordan Peele, Get Out (2017) (discussion)
Th Sep 13 Get Out (2017)(discussion continues)
Steven Thrasher, Get Out thinkpiece #1 [Web]
Aisha Harris, Get Out thinkpiece #2 [Web]
T Sep 18 Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer (2018) (viewing and initial thoughts)
Th Sep 20 Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer (2018) (extended discussion)
Aja Romano, “Janelle Monáe’s body of work is a masterpiece of modern science fiction” [Web]
Brittany Spanos, “Janelle Monáe Frees Herself” [Web]
Christopher Lebron, “Janelle Monáe for President” [Web]
T Sep 25 film: Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (2018) (discussion)
Th Sep 27 Black Panther (2018) (discussion continues)
Gerry Canavan, “The Limits of Black Panther’sAfrofuturism” [Web]
FIRST PAPER MINI-WORKSHOP
T Oct 2 Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, vol. 1
Evan Narcisse, “Ta-Nehisi Coates Explains How He’s Turning Black Panther into a Superhero Again” [web]
Th Oct 4 Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet, vol. 2
FIRST PAPER DUE
T Oct 9 Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet, vol. 3
Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism” [D2L]
Th Oct 11 Octavia E. Butler, Wild Seed, Book I (“Covenant, 1690”)
T Oct 16 Octavia E. Butler, Wild Seed, Book II (“Lot’s Children, 1741”)
Th Oct 18 FALL BREAK—NO CLASS
T Oct 23 Octavia E. Butler, Wild Seed, Book III (“Canaan, 1840”)
Th Oct 25 film: Wanuri Kahiu, “Pumzi” (2009) (in-class viewing and discussion)
SECOND PAPER MINI-WORKSHOP
T Oct 30 film (in class): District 9 (2009)
Th Nov 1 film: Neill Blomkamp, District 9 (2009) (in-class viewing continues and discussion)
SECOND PAPER DUE
T Nov 6 District 9 (2009) discussion continues
District 10 (forthcoming eventually?) discussion
Octavia E. Butler, “The Monophobic Response” [D2L]
Th Nov 8 Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Act I, first half)
T Nov 13 Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Act I, second half)
Th Nov 15 Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Act II)
T Nov 20 Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Act III)
Th Nov 22 THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS
T Nov 27 Abdourahman Waberi, In the United States of Africa (part one)
Th Nov 29 Abdourahman Waberi, In the United States of Africa (whole book)
FINAL PROJECTS/PAPERS MINI-WORKSHOP
T Dec 4 Film: Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You(2018)
Chip Gibbons, “In the World of Film, We’ve Edited Out All Rebellion: An Interview with Boots Riley” [Web]
LAST DAY OF CLASS
Th Dec 6 CLASS CANCELLED DUE TO INSTRUCTOR TRAVEL
F Dec 14 FINAL PAPERS/PROJECTS DUE BY 5:30 PM VIA D2L DROPBOX

 

 

New Course Descriptions for Fall 2016: “Alternate History” and “INFINITE JEST”

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So, this is what I’ll be teaching in the fall.

I’m a little swamped this morning so I can’t do the longer post on the Alternate History course I’ve been meaning too, but I wanted to thank the people on Twitter and Facebook who gave me such good ideas for additional texts in the course and really helped me expand my vision of what was possible. I’ll have a post about that sometime in the next couple of weeks, I hope…

ENGLISH 2000: LITERATURE AND GENRE

Course Title: Alternate History
Course Description: What if Hitler had never taken power? What if the United States had never dropped the atomic bomb on Japan? What if the 9/11 terror attacks had been foiled? What if Gore had beat Bush? What if slaves in the American South had successfully revolted, or China had discovered the New World, or the Black Plague had killed 99% of Europeans instead of only 25%? What if cloning had been invented and perfected in the 1970s? What if Superman’s rocket ship had landed in the Ukraine instead of Kansas? Is history made by Great Men, or by social movements, or by technological progress, or by random chance? Does history follow some set of laws or rules, or is it all just a bunch of stuff that happens? This course will explore all these topics and more through dedicated exploration of the literary genre typically called “alternate history”: stories of worlds that are exactly like ours, until some historical event, big or small, goes another way…
Readings: This course will explore the alternate history genre through a wide variety of media forms including prose fiction, film and television, comics, and games, but major readings for the course will include Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Abdourahman Waberi’s In the United States of Africa, Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, among others.
Assignments: two 4-6-page papers; one 6-8-page final paper; online discussion forum; active class discussion; presentations

 

 

ENGLISH 4615/5615: TEXT IN CONTEXT

Course Title: Infinite Jest
Course Description: I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.… We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. —David Foster Wallace

This course explores the literary, cultural, and intellectual legacy of David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), widely considered by admirers and detractors alike to be among the most influential and important writers of his generation. In particular we will study his magnum opus, Infinite Jest (1996), twenty years old this year, a book which not only continues to speak with shocking relevance and delightful irreverence to our present, but which seems, in many ways, to have accurately predicted it. Slowly and carefully reading Wallace’s epoch-defining novel together will open up a window on the last twenty years of American life, letters, entertainment, and art, while the unavoidable shadow cast by his 2008 suicide will raise important questions for us about literary celebrity, biographical criticism, and the often troubled relationship between public personae and the real, lived lives of writers and artists.
Readings: David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest; coursepack
Assignments: seminar paper (12-15 pages); two “thinkpiece”-length “mini-papers”; online reading journal; active class participation; presentations