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Next Wave Materialism: SURROUND

ENGL 573.301
instructor(s):
R 12-3:00

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. -- Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury"

 

This course presupposes that "we" are all breaking under the pressures of the cultural political economy. But/and, as Zora Neale Hurston writes, "de nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see." Thus/and the work orients itself around the perspective that being the mule of the world is a problem; that is, a particular kind of problem that black women have; the black woman's difference is a place to begin to know something about the reality inside which "we" labor and create.   

 

The prescient and incisive quality of light that Audre Lorde's sentences both bear and distribute call us to theorize a new materialism. What light illuminates (no matter how briefly) the "vectored" (Hartman) positions in which we find ourselves, in the world in which we work to live? What techniques of thinking and art might open a portal through which we might ride and refuse to be ridden by "the political economy of the (art) world" (Moten)? How does (any)one make anything under these conditions?  In addition to the theoretical materials in the course, our meetings will be peppered with examples (some offered by me, some by you) of actual artworks relevant to our developing discussion.

 

This iteration of the seminar narrows our focus on a constitutive surround: 1) matters of light and sound 2) material conditions of black womanhood 3) orientation and positionality.

 

Requirements: one short presentation on a work and a final 10 page essay/talk to the group in our final meetings.  

 

Possible Readings:

Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

Wendy Brown, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Martin Heidegger, Bremen and Freiburg Lectures

Jennifer Morgan, Laboring Women

Gayle Salomon, Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality

Alexander Weheliye, Phonographies

 

Key Previous Seminar Texts:

Saidiya Hartman, "The Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women's Labors"

Sylvia Wynter, "Towards the Sociogenic Principle"

Karen Barad, "Quantum Entanglements"

Katherine McKittrick & Alexander G. Weheliye, "808s and Heartbreak"

Fred Moten, The Universal Machine