Reading the Contemporary: Literature and Art in Africa and the African Diaspora
This course offers a comparative study of contemporary black literature and visual art. Assembling works from Africa, the Caribbean, North America, and Europe, we will explore how black writers and artists in Africa and its Diaspora are redefining our contemporary imagination. Despite national and regional differences, there are shared creative practices among contemporary black artists that require close attention. All the while, we will take heed of differences in nationality, region, and other forms of identity like gender and sexuality that work in tandem with race in defining what it means to be black in the world today. Key themes will include: the experience of migration and exile, the different iterations of blackness, and the ethical and political uses of black radical thought. Among the texts we will consider are: NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names; Abderrahmane Sissako’s feature film, Timbuktu; Edwidge Danticat’s memoir, Brother, I’m Dying; John Akomfrah’s documentary film, The Stuart Hall Project; Natasha Trethewey’s book of ekphrastic poems, Thrall; Zanele Muholi’s photographs; and Julie Mehretu’s abstract paintings.