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Causing Trouble: Experiments in Black Poetry and Performance

ENGL 200.302
TR 3-4:30pm

What are the political stakes of “experimentation” in late 20th and 21st century poetry and performance? How are poetry and performance effective mediums for bearing witness to today’s social crises? What strategies do Black artists employ to challenge what we know about poetry and performance and our expectations of what these forms can look like and do? This course will explore experimental strategies taken up by contemporary Black diasporic poets and performers who stretch the capacity of these two forms of expression in critical ways. Attending to the idea of “causing trouble” (as in bringing about disruption, agitation, disorder, or unrest) we will analyze how these artists challenge traditional genealogies and practices of poetry and performance, how they disrupt respectability politics and conceptions of race, gender, and sexuality, and how they challenge the larger academy to acknowledge the multiple forms that knowledge production can take. We will draw widely from across the Anglophone Black Diaspora and we will read texts from various fields including poetics, performance studies, visual culture, and cultural studies. Artists and scholars whose work we will explore may include M. NourbeSe Phillip, Sharon Bridgeforth, Victoria Santa Cruz, Doug Kearney, Harryette Mullen, Shalini Puri, Tsitsi Jaji, Coco Fusco and Charles Campbell, amongst others. 

As a Junior Research seminar, this course will create opportunities for students to learn and practice various research strategies toward a cumulative project of their choosing. As inspired by the works considered on the syllabus, assignments throughout the semester will integrate standard research methods such as close-reading, literature review, and visual analysis alongside creative research forms including embodied movement and the use of non-traditional archives of memory and sound.   


This course can be used as an Africana Studies course credit.

fulfills requirements
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Cultural Diversity in the US of the College's General Education Curriculum