Thoughts that Burn: Activism in 20th Century African-American Women's Writing
This course is interested in exploring a variety of activist sensibilities imagined in 20th Century black feminist literature. We will begin with a critical consideration of the non-profit and NGO political labor that tends to dominate how we think about activism in the present moment—a moment characterized by scholars and activists as “NGOization” and the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex.” Reading feminist social science scholarship on NGO activism, we will pay particular attention to the limitations of these political imaginaries, especially their reliance on a certain understanding of “global civil society.” The majority of the course, however, will investigate alternative imaginations of activism that productively challenge our contemporary assumptions about what constitutes proper political labor. More specifically, we will engage the literature of writers such as Pauline Hopkins, Paule Marshall, Alice Walker and Octavia Butler to consider how black feminists, in different historical moments, imagine what counts as activism and who is appropriately an activist, as we work towards creatively expanding dominant visions of activism today.
As a “W” course, students will take the course themes, in class writing assignments and ideas that surface in class discussion and produce several short papers, and a final 5-7 page (revised) interdisciplinary research paper. Students will also have the opportunity to practice multiple kinds of revision including conferences and peer-review.
A course reader will be available for purchase at the Ave Copy Center in January.
Possible Texts Include:
Contending Forces by Pauline Hopkins
Quicksand by Nella Larsen
Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall
Meridian by Alice Walker
Bailey’s Café Gloria Naylor
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler