Spring 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:371 Black Poetry

01   MW7  CAC   05409   SHOCKLEY   FH-B6    

Ecopoetics, Antiblackness, & the World as We Know It

Cultural geographer Carolyn Finney has said, “If you’re breathing, you’re in ‘nature.’” The last words of Eric Garner and George Floyd, both of whom died at the hands of the police, were, “I can’t breathe.” In this course, we will read broadly and deeply in the tradition of African American poetry, examining how Black poets in the U.S. have imagined the relationship between Blackness and the “natural world.” Our readings of poetry will be accompanied by critical readings in Black studies and Black feminist thought that will illuminate and expand upon the questions and concerns the poets have explored in their writings. What associations between Blackness and “nature” have we learned to accept, and when is “nature” coded “white”? What is “natural” about a world shaped by antiblackness? What is the relationship between antiblack violence and the violence humankind does to the planet? Might we have to suffer the end of the World to save the Earth—and how might the practices that kept Black people alive through slavery and its afterlife help us survive the damage humans have caused? We will learn to recognize and write about the techniques poets use to create works of art made with language: poems that celebrate and interrogate the “nature” of Black being. Course requirements will include three short papers, a creative project, and regular, active participation in oral and written class discussions.