Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Black Poetry after BAM (NEH Institute)

This summer, I'm collaborating with the poet-scholar Evie Shockley to facilitate a series of presentations and workshops related to the study of black poetry. Under the direction of professor Maryemma Graham at the University of Kansas, we're implementing an NEH Institute for college and university teachers.

The Institute, Black Poetry After the Black Arts Movement (BAM),  "responds to the resurgence of interest in contemporary poetry, its expanded production and wide circulation."  As we further explain in our write-up:
Special attention will be paid to the divergent and yet cross-fertilizing trajectories of black poetry since the 1980s, which has produced both the sharp and vocal critiques of spoken word poetry and the refined academic poetry that garners so much critical attention from the literary establishment.
Presenters will include several accomplished poets and scholars, including Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Marie Osbey, James Smethurst, Kathy Lou Schultz, William J. Harris, Harryette Mullen, Joanne Gabbin, Meta DuEwa Jones, Jerry W. Ward, Frank X. Walker, and Kevin Young.

The Institute provides participants (Summer Scholars) with a small stipend.

If you're a college teacher seeking to expand your knowledge of African American poetry and enhance your methods of introducing students to poetry, then you should definitely apply. If you know of someone who might be interested, please encourage them to apply as well.

I have worked with NEH Institutes on African American poetry and literature in general in previous years, and I have found them to be really extraordinary learning and intellectual experiences.

Being Wrong - Chapter 1: Wrongology

[Being Wrong]

"Wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world" (5). --Kathryn Schulz

In the first chapter of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Schulz begins making a case for why we might benefit by thinking more seriously about ho integral wrongness is to who we are. She unpacks multiple facets of error and charts out the way forward for her book.

Of the many concepts she references in the first chapter,which one drew your interest most and why?

Smarter Than You Think -- Chapter 1

[Smarter Than You Think]

In Chapter 1 "The Rise of The Centaurs" of Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson writes about chess and the evolution of the game. He discusses in detail the use of computer generated chess games. Ultimately, Thompson concluded that the best chess game is played humans and computers working side by side.

Thompson notes that:
History also shows that we generally improve and refine our tools to make them better. Books, for example, weren't always as well designed as they are now. In fact, the earliest ones were, by modern standards, practically unusable - often devoid of the navigational aids we now take for granted, such as indexes, paragraph breaks, or page numbers. It took decades - centuries, even - for the book to be redesigned into a more flexible cognitive tool, as suitable for quick reference as it is for deep reading. This is the same path we'll need to tread with our digital tools. It's why we need to understand not just the new abilities out tools give us today, but where they're still deficient and how they ought to improve (12-13).

What did you find most notable about the author’s discussion of chess and technology in chapter 1? Why and how so?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think

This semester, a group of us will cover Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better. One of our other groups will cover Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.

Reading Schedule:
Jan. 28: Chapter 1: The Rise of the Centaurs
Feb. 4: Chapter 2: We, the Memorious
Feb. 11: Reflections
Feb. 18: Chapter 3 Public Thinking
Feb. 25: Chapter 4: The New Literacies
March 4: Chapter 5: The art of Finding
March 18: Reflections
March 25: Chapter 6: The Puzzle-Hungry World
April 1: Chapter 7: Digital School
April 8: Chapter 8: Ambient Awareness
April 15: Chapter 9: The Connected Society
April 22: Epilogue
April 29: Reflections

Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

This semester, a group of us will cover Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. One of our other groups will cover Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better

Reading Schedule
Jan. 28: Chapter 1: Wrongology (pg. 3)
Feb. 4: Chapter 2: Two Models of Wrongness (pg. 25)
Feb. 11: Chapter 3: Our Senses (pg. 47)
Feb. 18: Chapter 4: Our Minds, Part One (pg. 67)
Feb. 25: Chapter 5: Our Minds, Part Two: Belief (pg. 87)
March 4: Chapter 6: Our Minds, Part Three: Evidence (pg. 111)
March 18: Chapter 7: Our Society (pg. 133)
March 25: Chapter 8: The Allure of Certainty
April 1: Chapter 9: Being Wrong (pg. 183)
April 8: Chapter 10: How Wrong? (pg. 201)
April 15: Chapter 11: Denial and Acceptance (pg. 220)
April 22: Chapter 12: Heartbreak (pg. 247)
April 29: Chapter 13: Transformation (pg. 273)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

African American Literary Studies @ SIUE (Fall 2015)

We will offer the following African American literature courses in Fall 2015.

Note: Each of the courses fulfills the general education requirements for:
Humanities-Breath; Fine Arts & Humanities; US Cultures-Exp; Intergroup relations

ENG 205: Intro. to African American Texts (TR 11:00 am – 12:15 pm) - Professor Elizabeth Cali
• This survey course will introduce students to a range of African American texts and literary traditions through poetry, autobiography, short fiction and essays, novels, drama, speeches, and audio and film performances. Our goals will be to identify and trace prominent traditions, themes, and debates in African American literature while identifying the relevance of these concepts in present-day life, issues, and events.

ENG 340: Black Rebels and Revolutionaries (TR 12:30 – 1:45 pm) Elizabeth Cali
• We will spend this semester studying several Black rebels and revolutionaries. Through reading and listening to the works of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Bob Marley, Maryse Conde, Marcus Garvey, Chimamanda Adichie, and Beyonce, students will think about what it means for each of these authors to act as revolutionaries, and how they serve as models for the future.

ENG 341: African American Women Writers (MW: 12:00 – 1:15 pm) – Professor Tisha Brooks
• In this class, we will consider the varying purposes for which black women have written in the face of tremendous obstacles and challenges. Primary authors may include Harriet Jacobs, Hannah Crafts, Pauline Hopkins, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall and screenwriter/producer Julie Dash.

ENG 342: Movements in Af. Am. Lit.: Autobiographical Practices (Online) – Professor Tisha Brooks
• How do black autobiographers negotiate the multiplicity of identity through their narratives? In what ways is identity fundamentally tied to place? What is the relationship between self and community? How do African American writers negotiate both public and private selves? We will seek to answer these questions through our online conversations and writing, as we explore the ways in which social location (race, class, gender, etc.) shapes and, at times, limits autobiographical practices.

ENG 345: Biggie, Jay Z, or Nas? (TR: 9:30 – 10:45 am) – Professor Howard Rambsy II
• This course will address the ongoing question: who’s the best MC? We’ll listen to, annotate, discuss, and write about lyrics by Rakim, Jay Z, Nas, B.I.G., Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, Weezy, Dre3000, and Kendrick, while discussing the histories of hip hop and these “best MC” debates.

ENG 446: Studies in African American Literature (MW: 1:30 – 2:45 pm) - Professor Tisha Brooks
• This course takes seriously the spiritual experience and legacy of black people in America, considering, through close analysis of a range of African American texts, the ways in which that spiritual experience has been shaped by and has offered a critical response to the realities of social difference. Through our exploration of a variety of contemporary texts, we will consider the diversity of spiritual perspectives at work in African American literature.

African American Literature @ SIUE

Malcolm X -- the poetic anti-poet, who was also a poet

Does metaphors? Check.
Delves into symbols and imagery? Check.
Does analogies, similes? Check.
Displays stylish phrasings? Check.
Has fun with words and language? Check.  
Masters diverse pacing, rhythm, and timing? Check. Check. Check.

No doubt about it, Malcolm could pass as one of our great poets. At least, there's something about the poetics of his speeches that reminds you of some of your favorite poets. That's no coincidence by the way.

Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez were always up front about borrowing Malcolm's techniques. Rakim, Jay Z, Jay Electronica, Black Thought, and many, many other rappers have drawn on techniques popularized by Malcolm as well.

Listen to Malcolm's "Message to the Grassroots," and among other things, you'll hear someone who's invested in interrogating language. He frequently uses the phrase "the so-called 'Negro'" displaying his skepticism with that term. He spends considerable time discussing "the difference between the black revolution and the Negro revolution." He uses name-calling to insert jokes; he signifies; he takes on different personas. In other words, he draws from a poet's toolbox.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reading Smarter Than You Think

This semester, I'm reading Clive Thompson's book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For the Better (2013) with about 100 or so students. 40 of the students are enrolled in my "Introduction to Literature" course, and 60 are participants in the Haley Scholars reading groups that I coordinate each semester. 

I've read technology pieces by Thompson here and there over the years, so I was pleased when his book was released back in 2013. Given budget cuts and such, I knew back then that I would have to wait until the paperback was released before I could get my hands on enough books for folks in the reading group. It's worked out now, and we're ready to roll. 

On the surface, many students on our campus appear immersed in technology. They are active on social media and are constantly utilizing their handheld devices. But I have a feeling that Thompson will take them a little further on considerations about the implications of technology in our society. I'm looking forward to our conversations. 

In a couple of months, some of the students will organize a public exhibit based on what we cover. I'll keep you posted on our progress.