Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Blackness and Visuality
“Blackness” designates both the constitutive marker of the odious Enlightenment concept of “race” as well as the cultural life that emerges despite and beyond that mark. Since “blackness” also already designates this foundational tension as a problem of the visual field, one mightprivilege sight as a way to understand the complexity and richness of this term. This course will discuss the “blackness” in and of African American art of the twentieth century, refining the question of how this foundational conflation comes into view in black self-expression. We will trace themajor black aesthetic movements of the century—the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and hip-hop—through the critical ambit-terms of folk art, modernism, Afro-centrism, black feminism, and post-modernism. We may
encounter works by Romare Bearden, Thornton Dial, Aaron Douglass, David Hammons, Barkley Hendricks, William H. Johnson, Adrian Piper, Horace Pippin, Faith Ringgold, Augusta Savage,Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley.
We will develop authorial and critical voices of our own in both discussion and writing. In addition to shorter exercises in argumentative and research-based writing, you will turn in two essays, the longer of which will incorporate secondary sources on a research topic of your own design. You will revise both essays, and we will conclude the semester with brief presentations on your research topic.