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Black Rage: Race, Affect, and the Politics of Feeling

ENGL 570.401
crosslisted as: AFRC 570, GSWS 570
instructor(s):
Tuesday 9-12:00

"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious” wrote James Baldwin “is to be in a state of rage almost all the time." While more attention has been paid to how other feelings like forgiveness or love have been the moral underpinnings to African American social movements, this class makes an effort to look at the history of and value this more difficult but equally important African American cultural expression of black rage, one that is often maligned as a destructive and subject to hyper-surveillance and suppression. We will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding this phenomenon by looking at the discourse surrounding events, like Nat Turner’s slave rebellions, Stonewall, the Attica Uprising, and Black Lives Matter, historicize the construction of “black rage” as a medical disorder and legal defense, study its offshoots, like “protest psychosis” and the “Angry Black Woman,” and examine how artists as vast Richard Wright, Nina Simone, Alice Walker, Glen Ligon, Public Enemy, Kara Walker, and Solange have explored it as a site of black resistance. Focusing on one of the most misunderstood African American political emotions -- black rage -- this course will examine how artists and activist have steadily moved it from the margins of black life into to the mainstream in American culture.