Jacinta R. Saffold

Stories Written on Concrete: Understanding & Re-Imagining Street Lit


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.

Recent Courses

AAS 151: #BlackVoicesMatter: African American Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices, Continuing Education Online Course; University of Massachusetts

AAS 118: Survey of African American Literature II, Teaching Assistant; University of Massachusetts Amherst

AAS 117: Survey of African American Literature I, Teaching Assistant; University of Massachusetts Amherst

Course Descriptions

#BlackVoicesMatter: African American Literary Responses to Enduring Injustices (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Spring 2015)

In #blackvoicesmatter we will consider how the recent killings of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and other black and brown people fit into a larger social history and how African American writers have chosen to respond to enduring injustices. Using a course blog, social media and blackboard, we will critically engage fiction and nonfiction literature, paying close attention to how socio-economic and historical moments have impacted what African Americans write. Specifically, AFROAM 151 will trace how and why African American literature has responded culturally, politically and creatively using four snapshots in American history the late slave period, the New Negro renaissance, the civil rights movement, and the current urban & digital complex.

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 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.