Fall 2022

Black Genius

Listed in: English, as ENGL-163


Frank Leon Roberts (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 163 and BLST 163) This seminar introduces students to the study of African American arts and expressive culture. Deploying a broad, interdisciplinary approach, we survey influential works of twentieth and twenty-first century African American fiction, music, drama, painting, and photography in order to understand the tendencies and trends associated with what scholars sometimes refer to as “the black aesthetic.” We will pay particular attention to “masterpiece” works—i.e. extraordinary works of art that have been widely acknowledged as watershed, influential, and enduring. What makes a (black) work of art a “masterpiece”? How have African Americans historically turned to the arts and expressive culture as sites of sociopolitical critique? What role have artists played in building and sustaining what the poet Fred Moten refers to as “the black radical tradition” (i.e. a tradition of black resistance, rebellion, and creative worldmaking). Some of the masterpieces which we will explore will include Toni Morrison’s Beloved, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, Romare Bearden’s The Block, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, Suzan Lori Parks’s Top Dog/Underdog, James Vanderzee’s The Harlem Book of the Dead, Ellis Wilson’s Funeral Procession, Anna Deveare Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Nina Simone’s Greatest Hits.

Fall semester. Professor Roberts.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work including week journal entries, readings, oral presentations, active in-class verbal participation, group work, in-class quizzes or exams, field work or trips, visual analysis, aural analysis, dramaturgical analysis, performance analysis.

ENGL 163 - LEC

Section 01
M 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM CONV 308
W 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM CONV 308


Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023