ENGL 311
Black Critical Theory, Black Avant-Garde Spring 2024
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed AFR 376 / AMST 374

Class Details

What is the relationship between violence and what constitutes the Black avant-garde and Black critical theory? Is it possible to conceptualize the latter two without an investigation of Black rebellion and its relationship between Black artistic and intellectual production? Can one argue that Black critique is none other than Black experimentation in form, or that Black abstraction is the requisite effector for all modes of Black praxis and thought? This course will explore these questions through a study of Black continental and diasporic avant-garde texts in multiple mediums. Alongside, we will also consider the emergence of contemporary Black critical theory, chronicling its development as both experimental and critical. Through the works of historical subjects of experimentation also considered to be objects critiquing in experimental form, the course will approach Black avant-gardism and Black critical theory as a productive opportunity to think about Blackness as critique, as experimentation, and as theoria. This pairing of Black avant-gardes and Black critical theory takes “avant” at its root–indicating what precedes or takes precedent–and “garde” as what is preeminent, or what protects. As such, we will start with the question of whether blackness, as an ideological fiction produced through violent historical ideologies and practices, could ever, or ever not, be anything but avant-garde?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3953
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly discussion posts and questions, a research presentation, and two 10-12 page papers
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Preference will be given to AMST majors and prospective majors, as well as ENGL and AFR majors or prospective majors.
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 311 Division I AFR 376 Division II AMST 374 Division II
DPE Notes: This course examines race through the lens of historic modalities of power and violence. Additionally, it attends to the artistic, political, and intellectual production of a racialized population responding to ideological and state technologies that not only create difference, but also perpetuate asymmetrical relations of power.

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