In ACST 200, students learn about the historical and theoretical foundations of Cultural Studies as an academic discipline and use cultural theory to analyze a variety of cultural products and representations. In this course, students look specifically at dominant and subversive constructions of gender, race, ethnicity, national and sexual identities, and how these constructions are deployed through cultural practices and productions such as sports, film and television, folklore and popular culture, youth subcultures, music, and so on. For example, the course may contain units on "nation" and the creation of American mythologies; the process of hero-making in American history; stereotypes and the representation of race and ethnicity in television and film; representations of gender and sexuality in advertising; as well as a section on American music from jazz, blues, folk and roots music, to rock and roll, punk, and hip-hop. This course fulfills the Human Diversity requirement in the core curriculum.
While for many Americans the law and its enforcement have served to assuage anxieties about order and stability and to provide for a sense of security ("To Protect and Serve"), for African Americans the law has often been a barrier to freedom and dignity--a clear and present danger to human existence. It is the volatile nature of this relationship that makes detective, crime, and mystery novels by black writers so fascinating. More often than not, the characters in these novels exist in a world where criminality depends entirely on one's perspective. Many times, the real villain is a power structure that attempts to define and fix identity, status, privilege, and even humanity itself. The city, then, can become a site of liberation, an interzone where black and white, rich and poor, good and bad meet in a dizzying swirl that makes it difficult to put a fix on just who is who and who is doing what to whom. This course will explore the largely urban terrain of crime and mystery novels written by black authors and seek to understand the ways protagonists of these works occupy a unique and precarious position while attempting to negotiate a world in which notions of "criminality," "justice," and "morality" are highly contested and almost always dependent on who occupies the positions of power. We will also explore the ways that black criminality can offer a powerful indictment of the very laws that seek to regulate it. Authors will include Chester Himes, Pauline Hopkins, Walter Mosely, Mat Johnson, Eleanor Taylor Bland, Victor LaValle, and Percival Everett. This course satisfies the Diversity Literature distribution requirement for English majors (Note: It has not been approved to satisfy the Human Diversity requirement of the core curriculum). Prerequisite: ENGL 201, 202, 203, or 204.
In this class we will explore the intersection of folklore, an oral communication form, and literature, a written one. Since folklore encompasses everything from legends, jokes, traditional music, fairy tales, and marchen to belief, customs, and material culture, it would be folly to imagine that literary production has not been influenced by it. We'll examine the myriad ways authors use folk genres, motifs, and culture in their work. This will mean reading about the fantastical and quotidian--but always the human. Authors may include Neil Gaiman, Martin McDonagh, Toni Morrison, T.S. Eliot, Louise Erdrich, Charles Chesnutt, Kristin Naca, and others. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.
In this class we will explore the intersection of folklore, an oral communication form, and literature, a written one. Since folklore encompasses everything from legends, jokes, traditional music, fairy tales, and marchen to belief, customs, and material culture, it would be folly to imagine literary production has not been influenced by it. We'll examine the myriad ways authors use folk genres, motifs, and culture in their work. This will mean reading about the fantastical and quotidian--but always the human. Authors may include Neil Gaiman, Martin McDonagh, Toni Morrison, T.S. Eliot, Louise Erdrich, Charles Chestnut, Kristin Naca, and others. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing.
Watch enough science fiction movies and you'll notice a curious thing: black folks don't really exist in the future imagined by white people (except as nightmare!). For black diasporic peoples, the future is forbidden while the past remains perilous. As comedian Louis C K has commented, "Black people can't f*** with time machines." If C K is right, it would appear that the speculative future as well as the past are the exclusive domains of white privilege. The emergent literary and cultural aesthetic Afrofuturism offers a challenge to that conclusion. Focusing on the instersection between race and technology, Afrofuturism explores alternative futures imagined by black artists, it re-visions culture and blackness in present and future moments, and it allows us to revisit history with an eye towards alternate explanations of past conditions. Ultimately, Afrofuturism combines art, imagination, technology, theory, and Afrocentrism to conceive and render, through various mediums, multiple alternatives to a past, present, and future imposed on diasporic peoples by a restrictive white imagination. In this class, we will embark on a literary journey through time looking for ways that re-imaginings of black existence can allow us to reconsider the nature of blackness itself. Authors may include: Emily Rabateau, Nalo Hopkinson, George Schuyler, Octavia Butler, Sun Ra, Samuel Dalaney, Tracy K. Smith, and Victor LaValle. This course satisfies the Multcultural Literature distribution requirement and counts as a 600-level seminar. Prerequisite: GENG 513 or permission of the instructor.
Ph.D., University of Missouri M.A., Creighton University B.A., Rockhurst University At St. Thomas Since 2003
African American Literature and Expressive Culture Folklore and Folkloristics The Black Arts Movement
Review of Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture by Baz Dreissinger. MELUS 35.1 (2010) 190-192.
“Talk Like a Man: Internal Dissonance and the Performance of Masculinity in Etheridge Knight’s Poems From Prison.” The Griot: Official Journal of the Southern Conference on African American Studies 27.2 (2008): 10-23.
"We Are Family: Gender Tensions and the Construction of the Black Family in the Early Poetry of Sonia Sanchez." B.MA:The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review 10.2 (2005).
"Folkloric Representation and Extended Context in the Experimental Ethnography of Zora Neale Hurston." Southern Folklore 57.2 (2000): 119-134.
“'Telling All Our Stories': Institutionalization, Vernacular Expression, and Contested Meaning at the Flight 93 National Memorial.” American Folklore Society Meeting. Bloomington, Indiana, October 2011.
“Beneath the Underdog, Between Traditions: Charles Mingus’s Use of the Black Pimp Figure.” The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900. Louisville, Kentucky, February 2010.
“’Telling the Story of My Life’”: Collaboration and Privileged Voice in What is the What.” American Folklore Society Annual Meeting. Boise, Idaho, October 2009.
“‘American Has Really Grown Up’: Percival Everett, Barack Obama, and the Illusion of a ‘Post-Racial’ Society.” Midwest Modern Language Association Annual Meeting. Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008.
“When is Graffiti Not Really Graffiti?: Ideology and Folk Expression at the Flight 93 Memorial.” American Folklore Society Annual Meeting. Louisville, Kentucky, October 2008.
Memberships in Professional Organizations
Midwest Modern Language Association American Folklore Society (Executive Board Member--term ends 2014) Southern Conference on African American Studies