African American Literature, I have found, encourages students to productively engage issues concerning race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and other socially constructed frameworks of difference, while learning critical thinking skills and honing their ability to write. Given the fragility of the contemporary moment in the United States and the polarity of these subject matters, I have developed an inclusive and collaborative teaching pedagogy, whereby we—as scholars, students, and citizens—can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for diversity of thought and experiences.
I view the classroom as a cooperative, discursive space, where I call upon students to examine not only the texts we read, but how they can use literature to make tangible contributions to society. When teaching African American literature and culture, I take advantage of the diverse sets of intersecting socio-cultural experiences my students bring to the classroom by asking them to consider how their background informs their access to and evaluation of literature. As an instructor, my goals are to teach my students critical thinking skills, literary analysis approaches, and research methodologies, while having them leave my class more aware of who they are and how they can make the world a better place by understanding and respecting others who may have different perspectives. As an instructor, I intentionally design courses with a variety of ways to meet students where they are, while challenging them to think more critically and encourage them to deal with delicate issues of structural difference.
HON 300: Watching the Wire: America’s Other Story
ENGL 4093/5093 Studies in Black Literatures: Black Women Writers
ENGL 6007 #BlackVoicesMatter: Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices
AAS 117: Survey of African American Literature I; University of Massachusetts Amherst
AAS 118: Survey of African American Literature II; University of Massachusetts Amherst
ENGL 6280 Introduction to Graduate Studies in English
Watching the Wire: America’s Other Story
HBO’s crime drama, The Wire (2002-2008) has been lauded as one of the most powerful television programs of all time for its ability to humanize the 1980s urban drug epidemic. Set in Baltimore “Murderland” and loosely based on real events, the show tackles the difficult subjects of urban blight, mass incarceration, the de-industrialization of America, the school to prison pipeline, and the corruption of state and local politics. The Wire blurs the line between history and fiction with stunningly impactful results.
Studies in Black Literatures: Black Women Writers
In the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and moments of reckoning like #MeToo, the intersection of race and gender has become one of the most contentious spaces in contemporary times, especially for Black women. Authors, theorists, and critics writing as and in service to Black women over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have provided critical entrees into the thoughts, hopes, and disappointments that come with being Black and a woman. This course seeks to understand the thoughts, concerns, and words of Black women through literature. A variety of fiction and non-fiction readings by and about Black women will highlight the ways race, class, gender and other socially constructed forms of difference combine, intersect, and complicate narratives of Blackness and femininity. Special attention will be paid to Black women as agents in their lives, Black women as thinkers and theorizers, and the various ways in which Black women in the U.S. have reimagined our world.
#BlackVoicesMatter: Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices
#BlackVoicesMatter sits in the wake of the recent surge of born digital protest movements spurned by a highly polarized America. Our current era, marked by #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #SayHerName, and numerous other causes with digital roots, builds upon longstanding protest traditions in African American history. This history has indelibly influenced some of the greatest pieces of African American literature.
Together, we will use African American literature to consider how Black writers have chosen to respond to enduring injustices. We will critically engage fiction and nonfiction texts, paying close attention to how socio-economic and historical moments have impacted what and how African Americans write. #BlackVoicesMatter will draw literature from four moments of great civil or social unrest in African American history; the late slave period, the New Negro Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and the current digital rights moment.
Introduction to Africana Studies
This is an introductory course aimed at exploring the nuances and continuities of Africana Studies as an academic discipline; including, its genealogy, development, and future challenges. Introduction to Africana Studies uses history, literature, education, religion, and culture to consider to poly-vocal African Diasporic experiences. This course begins with the establishment of Black Studies as a discipline and ends with contemporary issues plaguing black people. The course surveys texts written by and about African-descended peoples in the Americas, particularly the United States, as well as the Caribbean, and Africa. We will also consider how members of the Diaspora remember and encounter Africa, and descendants of Africa have responded to enslavement, colonialism, apartheid, racism, and globalization.
Black Romance in the Popular Imagination
Have you seen #BlackGirlsRock, #BlackBoyJoy, or #BlackGirlMagic floating around Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and pondered their significance? In this course we will use virtual and classroom space to critically engage how contemporary culture producers are re-imagining black love. Hashtags, memes, and GIFs are endemic of a wider effort to combat negativity being associated with people of color during this racially turbulent national moment. We will consider the utility of contemporary theoretical frameworks aimed at conceptualizing the present moment by applying them to novels, audiovisual albums, films, and poetry. This course specifically pulls from African American Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and English to glean a better cultural understanding on how African Americans are creatively envisioning love and romance in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Era. In addition to classroom lectures and discussions we will construct a shared blog, use specific twitter hashtags, and collect relevant real-time articles on Tumblr.
An optional, one credit, film course will accompany this course. We will view and discuss contemporary films concerning black romance, fictive kinship, familial dysfunction, and friendship.
Introduction to Graduate Studies in English
In this introductory course, we will explore the foundations of various literary theories, pedagogies, and practices through a prism of African American literature. Together, we will ensure all students—from those new to the subject to those with extensive undergraduate experience in English—understand the rigors of graduate study in English at UNO and are preparing for vibrant careers post graduation. Assignments will range from writing abstracts for peer review quality essays, to critical literary analyses, to creating professional cover letters for postgraduate careers. Generally, This course seeks to equip learners with the requisite skills necessary to continue graduate studies in pursuit of the professoriate, to transition into writing focused careers, or to creatively purpose a Master’s degree in English literature.