African/American: Reading and Writing Tricksters
Winter 2016 quarter
“Interpreter, storyteller, and transformer, the trickster is a master of borders and exchange, injecting multiple perspectives to challenge all that is stultifying, stratified, bland, or prescriptive.” – Jeanne Rosier Smith, Writing Tricksters: Mythic Gambols in American Ethnic Literature
This program will explore the forms, functions, and social, cultural, and historical evolution of African-American tricksterism. We will investigate the ways in which 20th- and 21st-century African-American artists have served as tricksters within an age-old cultural tradition and, in the process, have helped develop one of the few aesthetics capable of addressing the multivalent, polycultural realities of life in the contemporary United States.
This program is designed for students seeking to study American culture in general, and African-American culture in particular. Our primary texts will include fiction by Toni Morrison and Percival Everett, the films of Spike Lee, the stand-up comedy of Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle, the music of Tupac/2Pac/Makaveli, and the athletic and verbal wizardry of Muhammad Ali. These artists, among others, have employed their storytelling and other gifts consistently and powerfully to “shake things up, splinter the monologic, shatter the hierarchies...proliferate, disrupting tradition and mediating change” (Smith) and thus have challenged America to gaze beyond racial, gender, and other binaries.
Program activities will include lectures/presentations, workshops, film screenings, and two weekly seminars devoted to close readings of literature, music, and other texts. In addition to short weekly writing assignments, there will be a final project (most likely a research paper with an optional creative component). Field trips may include museum visits, off-campus films, and music venues.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day