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Undergraduate Program

Fall 2020 Courses

This is a partial list of fall 2020 AAAS classes—these are either "parented" by FDI/AAAS, are new offerings or taught by relatively new faculty, or are taught by recent FDI post-docs. A complete list of other cross-listed classes is available in CDCS and on our main courses page.

AAAS Course NumberCo-located Course NumbersCourse TitleInstructorMeeting TimeClick Images for Course Description & Bio
AAAS 123-1

MUSC 123-1

Music of Black AmericansCory Hunter

MW 12:30-1:45 p.m.

coryhunter
AAAS 146-1

GSWS 145-1, RELC 146-1

Womanist Religious RhetoricConā Marshall

R 2-4:40 p.m.

conamarshall
AAAS 147-1

MUSC 147-1

Gospel Music in AmericaCory Hunter

MW 10:25-11:40 a.m.

coryhunter
AAAS 152-1

RELC 152-1

Black Church StudiesConā Marshall

M 2-4:40 p.m.

conamarshall
AAAS 156-1

ENGL 116-2, GSWS 155-1

Introduction to African American LiteratureTucker, JeffMW 10:25-11:40 a.m.

Lechase 143
jeff tucker
AAAS 214-1

AAAS 214-1, ENGL 228-1 (P), FMST 237-1

Reimagining the Human: Global Black Speculative FictionOmelsky, MatthewTR 12:30-1:45 p.m.

B&L Room 270
omelsky
AAAS 235-1

ANTH 235-1 GSWS 234-1

The Black BodyKathryn MarinerTR 12:30-1:45 p.m.kathrynmariner
AAAS 262

GSWS 262

Black Feminism & Popular CulturePrince, Alisa

TR 9-10:15 a.m.

Online
aprince
AAAS 276

ENGL 238

Bright Lights, African CitiesOmelsky, Matthew

TR 2-3:15 p.m.

Online

omelsky
AAAS 280-1GSWS 280-1
GSWS 480-1
Intersectionality: the History of an IdeaOsucha, Eden

MW 11:50 a.m.-1:05 p.m.

Hybrid

osucha
AAAS 285-1EHUM 284-1, GSWS 285-1, RELC 284-1Civil DisobedienceDowney, Jack

MW 12:30-1:45 p.m.

Jack Downey
AAAS 380

Senior SeminarCilas Kemedjio

9:40 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

Hybrid
kemedjio

AAAS 123-1 Music of Black Americans

Course Description

The course will study the Black American Christian musical beginnings and includes forms of worship, early musical practices, the Spiritual, evolution of Gospel. An examination of ante-bellum musical activities follows including secular song types, character of the folk music with respect to poetic and musical form, language and themes. Attention will be given to significant literary and aesthetic developments, especially during the Harlem Renaissance and the poetry of several writers of that era will be surveyed. The course will treat Blues, its origins evolution through the 1940s. Surveys of classical music forms from the 18th to mid-20th century; music of the theater from minstrelsy to Broadway; precursors of jazz, the syncopated dance orchestra and brass bands; early jazz to bebop round out the course offerings.

Instructor

Cory Hunter holds a dual appointment as Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Rochester and Assistant Professor of Musicology at Eastman School of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Eastman School of Music in 2006 with distinction, a Master of Divinity and Certificate of Music from Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in 2009 and his PhD in musicology from Princeton University in 2016. His current book project, The Politics of Spiritual Realism in Gospel Music Discourse and Practice, examines black gospel music in the twenty-first century and the ways in which gospel artists use various musical and discursive practices as strategies to communicate their theological commitments.

As a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards to support his research, Dr. Hunter received the Carter G. Woodson predoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia (2015-2017), the postdoctoral fellowship in American Studies at Brandeis University (2017-2018) and the postdoctoral fellowship at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Rochester (2018-2019).

Dr. Hunter’s music performance career began as a boy soprano and lead soloist for the world renowned Boys Choir of Harlem. He has toured internationally, performing in concert halls across Europe and Canada as well as in leading US venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Apollo Theater. He also performed and was featured as a soloist on Good Morning America, Nightline, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, among a host of other television programs.

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AAAS 146-1 Womanist Religious Rhetoric

Course Description

The focal point of this course is to engage womanist literature and theory, works written by Black women, as a source for doing theology and rhetoric. Commencing with the seminal scholarship of Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, womanist theological ethicist, who affirms, “the Black women’s literary tradition is the best available repository for understanding the ethical values Black women have created and cultivated in this society.” This course takes up writings that engage the everyday experiences of women of the African Diaspora navigating oppressive socio-political contexts (particularly) and the human condition (universally). Students will read primary historical and contemporary autobiographical, fictional, theoretical, and poetic texts

Instructor

Conā Marshall’s teaching and research interests focus on womanism, Black feminism, the Black church (as an institution), and African American public religious rhetoric. Dr. Marshall arrived at the University of Rochester from Pennsylvania where she was Director and Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Lebanon Valley College. She served one year as a postdoctoral fellow with the Frederick Douglass Institute at University of Rochester prior to joining the Religion and Classics Department. She received her PhD from the Department of African American and African Studies with a concentration in Cultural Rhetorics within the Writing, Rhetoric and Culture Department at Michigan State University, and is the author of the upcoming book, Ain’t I a Preacher?: Black Women’s Preaching Rhetoric.

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AAAS 147-1 Gospel Music in America

Course Description

In Gospel Music in America, we will examine the historical development of gospel music, beginning with 19th century slave spirituals and ending with an examination of 21st century gospel music practices. Throughout this course, we will attempt to answer the following questions: what is gospel music how are the parameters of the genre defined? How has gospel music participated in constructions of black identity and spiritual formation? How has the sound and presentation of gospel music evolved i.e. instrumentation, vocal aesthetic, performance persona, and technique? Lectures and discussions will also highlight some of the perpetually controversial tensions that have come to define gospel music history and culture. Such tensions involve the commercialization of gospel music, the ambiguity of lyrical meaning, gospel musics flirtations with sensuality and sexuality, and debates about what constitutes authentic gospel music.

Instructor

Cory Hunter holds a dual appointment as Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Rochester and Assistant Professor of Musicology at Eastman School of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Eastman School of Music in 2006 with distinction, a Master of Divinity and Certificate of Music from Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in 2009 and his PhD in musicology from Princeton University in 2016. His current book project, The Politics of Spiritual Realism in Gospel Music Discourse and Practice, examines black gospel music in the twenty-first century and the ways in which gospel artists use various musical and discursive practices as strategies to communicate their theological commitments.

As a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards to support his research, Dr. Hunter received the Carter G. Woodson predoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia (2015-2017), the postdoctoral fellowship in American Studies at Brandeis University (2017-2018) and the postdoctoral fellowship at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Rochester (2018-2019).

Dr. Hunter’s music performance career began as a boy soprano and lead soloist for the world renowned Boys Choir of Harlem. He has toured internationally, performing in concert halls across Europe and Canada as well as in leading US venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Apollo Theater. He also performed and was featured as a soloist on Good Morning America, Nightline, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, among a host of other television programs.

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AAAS 152-1 Black Church Studies

Course Description

As a target for Dillan Roof and payday loan lending initiatives as well as an acknowledged source of homophobia and sexism, the Black church continues to be vital in American society—more poignantly, African American communities. While many continue to support social justice initiatives, The Black Church becomes a varied space for cultivating worship practices, homiletic praxis, musical selections and theological offerings. This course is designed to aid understanding African American Christian Traditions in the context of American (church) history. We will study what the Black church is, its construction, maintenance as well as its theological and social standings. We will listen to sermons, gospel music and attend a Black Church in the greater Rochester area as a cohort. The goal is to introduce major concepts produced by the Black Church including, but not limited to: womanist theology and ethics, Black liberation theology, Black social ethics, African American homiletics, and African American hermeneutics. Students will be asked to locate

Instructor

Conā Marshall’s teaching and research interests focus on womanism, Black feminism, the Black church (as an institution), and African American public religious rhetoric. Dr. Marshall arrived at the University of Rochester from Pennsylvania where she was Director and Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Lebanon Valley College. She served one year as a postdoctoral fellow with the Frederick Douglass Institute at University of Rochester prior to joining the Religion and Classics Department. She received her PhD from the Department of African American and African Studies with a concentration in Cultural Rhetorics within the Writing, Rhetoric and Culture Department at Michigan State University, and is the author of the upcoming book, Ain’t I a Preacher?: Black Women’s Preaching Rhetoric.

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AAAS 156-1 Introduction to African American Literature

Course Description

This course surveys African American literature of a variety of genres—poetry, drama, autobiography, fiction, and non-fiction essays—from the 20th Century. The course interprets this tradition not only as the production of American writers of African descent, but also as a set works that display formal characteristics associated with black cultural traditions. Discussion topics include the meanings of race, the construction of black identity, and intra-racial differences of class, gender, and sexuality. Special attention will be paid to approaching literary texts from a variety of critical perspectives.

Instructor

Jeffrey Tucker studies literature as a context for discussions about postmodernism, cultural and identity politics, and racial representation. Much of his research has addressed the genre of science fiction. His current projects include articles on technology and identity in novels by Octavia E. Butler as well as a study of the life and writings of John A. Williams.

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AAAS 214-1 Reimagining the Human: Global Black Speculative Fiction

How do cyborgs, superheroes, and ghosts change our understanding of what it means to be human? How do interstellar travel, dystopian climate change, and revisionist ancient histories reframe the way we think of African diasporic histories of trauma, survival, desired freedom, and collective belonging? Studying science fiction, fantasy, and horror from across Africa, the Caribbean, and North America, this course will focus on how 20th and 21st century artists have reimagined black life after slavery and empire. We’ll study a range of artistic forms, including fiction, film, visual art, graphic novels, and music, by artists like Octavia Butler, Wanuri Kahiu, Wangechi Mutu, Nalo Hopkinson, Ryan Coogler, and Nnedi Okorafor. We’ll look at how artists of color contort the world we know, and how they use the speculative mode to pose deeply philosophical and historical questions.

Instructor

Matthew Omelsky works and teaches in the field of global black cultural studies. His current book project, Fugitive Time: African Diasporic Utopian Aesthetics, presents a theory of time-consciousness—the perception and experience of time—in literature, visual culture, and music from across the diaspora, including Zimbabwe, Britain, Martinique, Senegal, and the US. The project charts the intersection of black fugitivity and utopian desire in a range of works, from Olaudah Equiano’s 18th century slave narrative, to Sun Ra’s avant-garde poetry and music, to NoViolet Bulawayo’s contemporary fiction. Most of his published work to date investigates questions of power, ontology, and temporality in African fiction and cinema, speculative fiction, black studies critical theory, and climate change thought and aesthetics. Before coming to Rochester, Omelsky was the postdoctoral fellow for the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” in Penn State’s Department of African American Studies.

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AAAS 235-1 The Black Body

Course Description

In Black Skins, White Masks, Frantz Fanon wrote, “O my body, make of me always a man who questions!” In the United States, popular cultural understandings of race have often located blackness within the body: in DNA, in blood, in skin, in hair texture, in facial features. How does race get mapped onto the body? In this interdisciplinary course on race and embodiment, students will encounter texts and writing assignments prompting them to think critically about how black bodies ‘matter’ in the contemporary U.S. Course materials and assignments will encourage students to explore how blackness intersects with other social categories such as gender and class at the site of the body, while exploring how these categories are socially constructed and can and should be troubled, blurred, and contested in the practice of social life. The dual themes of intersectionality and visuality will act as a frame for our explorations.

Instructor

Professor Mariner's research examines the relationship between social inequality and intimacy in the United States. As a cultural anthropologist additionally trained and licensed in clinical social work, she investigates how historical and contemporary structures of power, such as race and racism, shape how people construct notions of family and community in their everyday lives.

Her first book, Contingent Kinship (University of California Press, 2019), is based on research at a private adoption agency specializing in the transracial placement of Black and biracial children in Chicago. In developing the theoretical concept of “intimate speculation,” the book explores the speculative logics of domestic transracial adoption, by attending to how raced and classed exchanges of power, money, and knowledge produce notions of the Black child as a highly contingent imagined future. The conditions of possibility for this adoptive future often include historical legacies of dispossession and the devaluation of Black motherhood. Witnessing this process unfold within Chicago's landscape of stark race and class segregation has informed Professor Mariner's current interest in the relationship between social inequality and physical space.

Professor Mariner is currently conducting fieldwork for a new research project--tentatively titled Fertile Ground--investigating the relationship between race and placemaking in Rochester, New York. In order to understand how individuals from marginalized groups build physical spaces of community within the context of hypersegregation, the project utilizes community-based and participatory approaches to fieldwork, and employs the methods of observant participation, interviews, mapping, photography, and artistic production to capture the many ways people are creating and sustaining lifeworlds in a city sometimes described as “dying,” and where certain racialized spaces in particular have been problematically termed “fatal.” Fertile Ground sprouts from three existing intellectual traditions: theories of space and place, urban ethnography and history, and feminist and Black geographies. Learn more about the project at fertilegroundroc.org.

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AAAS 262 Black Feminism and Popular Culture

Course Description

The influence of Black people is a profound contribution to both culture and politics in America, and yet, anti-black racial injustice, police brutality, and violence against women and queer people persist throughout the country. To understand the complex relationships between gender, sexuality, and race, and cultural products and lived experiences, this course addresses questions of entertainment, artistic forms of resistance, and the relationship between cultural producers and capitalism. Rooted in Black feminism and critical race theory, in this course we examine contemporary art, movements, and popular culture to identify sites of contradiction at the intersections of identity, celebrity, capitalism, and feminisms, among other features at play. Topics include Colin Kaepernick’s political activism and Nike campaign, Lebron James’s HBO series The Shop, Beyonce’s feminism from Destiny’s Child to Lemonade, and social media phenomena such as “trending” and “cancel culture.” Texts include the work of cultural writers and theorists, Michelle Alexander, Hazel V. Carby, Brittany Cooper, Ralph Ellison, Roxane Gay, Audre Lorde, Quincy T. Mills, Jennifer C. Nash, Claudia Rankine, Phoebe Robinson, Omise’eke Tinsley, and Michelle Wallace.

Instructor

Alisa Victoria Prince is a doctoral candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. Based in critical race theory, her work focuses on the history of photography (particularly Black vernacular photography), the roles of race and gender in identity construction, and artistic forms of resistance. She is also interested in Black Feminist traditions, cultural politics, historiography, and genealogies of Blackness. Alisa serves as Managing Editor of InVisible Culture, a journal for visual culture. She is also a visual artist working in the photographic and printmaking mediums.

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AAAS 276 Bright Lights, African Cities

Course Description

In this course we’ll dive deep into the cultural history of three sprawling cities, asking how urban space on the African continent has been imagined and reimagined from the mid-20th century to the present. Spending consecutive weeks on each—Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa)—we will traverse an eclectic range of materials and perspectives. We’ll read about underground club cultures, colonial segregation laws, LGBTQ communities, and emergent musics like Afrobeat, Benga, and Township Tech. We’ll also study an array of cultural forms spanning sci-fi film, music videos, novels, sound art, fashion blogs, and comics. How, we’ll ask, do ever-shifting constraints, global influences, and desires for freedom change the shape of a city? What does it mean for a city to be continually reimagined and revised?

Instructor

Matthew Omelsky works and teaches in the field of global black cultural studies. His current book project, Fugitive Time: African Diasporic Utopian Aesthetics, presents a theory of time-consciousness—the perception and experience of time—in literature, visual culture, and music from across the diaspora, including Zimbabwe, Britain, Martinique, Senegal, and the US. The project charts the intersection of black fugitivity and utopian desire in a range of works, from Olaudah Equiano’s 18th century slave narrative, to Sun Ra’s avant-garde poetry and music, to NoViolet Bulawayo’s contemporary fiction. Most of his published work to date investigates questions of power, ontology, and temporality in African fiction and cinema, speculative fiction, black studies critical theory, and climate change thought and aesthetics. Before coming to Rochester, Omelsky was the postdoctoral fellow for the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” in Penn State’s Department of African American Studies.

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AAAS 280-1 Intersectionality: the History of an Idea

Course Description

This course examines the origins, history, and present-day circulations of “intersectionality,” a concept first introduced into feminism’s critical lexicon in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. For Crenshaw, “intersectionality” made visible the overlap and convergence of gender- and race-based structures of oppression through which Black women’s specific experiences of discrimination were frequently illegible and thus invisible to courts who understood legal claims of discrimination on the basis of race and sex through the experiences of African American men and white women, respectively. Since Crenshaw’s now classic essay first appeared, “intersectionality” has come to dominate U.S. feminism as an interpretive paradigm in academic research and teaching and as a powerful tool for feminist social critique and activism beyond the academy. Intersectionality is also today a major force for aesthetic and narrative innovation in the wider public sphere, as reflected in influential art and literature, popular music, and film and television of the recent decade.

In tracing this history, we will revisit Crenshaw’s foundational writings, some of the race-conscious legal theories and prior women-of-color feminisms that informed her interventions, and later Black feminist writing that took up this new critical paradigm. We will also attend to the wide theoretical reach of Crenshaw’s original concept, which scholars have deployed to understand the intersections of race and gender with other axes of difference—such as sexual orientation, disability, and immigration status—and to illuminate the complex operations of social oppressions beyond race- and gender-based discrimination, including Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and ableism. Students will also engage intersectionality’s wider impact through several cultural objects and discourses that index this history. The course will conclude by looking at academic debates over intersectionality, which has faced critiques from within Black feminist thought, and Crenshaw’s most recent writings, including her response to intersectionality’s critics.

Instructor

Professor Osucha’s areas of research expertise include Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture, African American Studies, Legal Studies, Critical Race Studies, Visual Culture, Queer Studies, and Feminist Theory.

Her book manuscript, The Post-Racial Past: Race, Privacy and Identity Before the Obama Era, examines historical productions of the discourse commonly called “the post-racial” prior to the twenty-first century, at the intersections of law, literature, and media culture. The Post-Racial Past argues that contemporary post-racialism originates in the legal history of “privacy,” which Professor Osucha traces beyond the formal recognition of a right to privacy in constitutional law to antebellum slave law that regarded the sovereignty of slave masters as a natural right rooted in the master-slave relation’s “private” nature. Through linked analyses of literary works and legal writing–including Supreme Court opinions, statutory laws, and legal scholarship–and visual texts from cinema and television to nineteenth-century commercial media, The Post-Racial Past argues that the legal right to privacy’s development via racialized technologies of publicity, surveillance, and sexuality made broader discourses of race, privacy, and identity increasingly enmeshed and conceptually interdependent. Exploring the acute racialization of a rights claim overtly linked, throughout its history, to gendered and sexuality-based identity claim, the book demonstrates how legal privacy anticipated, rehearsed, and consolidated post-racialism prior to its becoming, at the start of the Obama Era, a dominant ideology still pervasive within the political and cultural contradictions of American racism in the present.

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AAAS 285: Civil Disobedience

Coures Description

This course will examine the varieties of thought about, and practice of, civil disobedience within social movements, with an emphasis on contemporary activism. When, why, and how do communities choose to push back against structures of violence and injustice? Throughout the semester, we will study canonical texts? of modern resistance history speeches, writing, direct action protests, art and will consider the role of this form of counter-conduct within larger campaign strategies to build power from below and get free.

Instructor

Jack Downey is the John Henry Newman Chair in Roman Catholic Studies. He teaches courses on contemporary justice movements, liberation theologies, North American religious history, Christianity, Buddhism, and contemplative traditions. Dr. Downey arrived at the University of Rochester from Philadelphia, where he was Associate Professor of Religion and Theology at La Salle University. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Theology at Fordham University, and is the author of The Bread of the Strong, a study of contemplative influences on Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. His current research projects examine self-immolation, forms of protest, violence, Roman Catholicism in Alaska and Québec, and asceticism.

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AAAS 380 Senior Seminar

Course Description

Students will draw upon their exposure to the theory methods of AAS to produce an interdisciplinary research paper on a topic of their own choosing. Open only to senior majors. Permission of Department required.

Instructor

Cilas Kemedjio is a Professor of French and Francophone studies whose contributions in the fields of Caribbean and African literature and culture, postcolonial theory and transnational black studies have earned him both national and international recognition. He is the author of two monographs, one edited volume, and over 60 articles. His first book (Maryse Condé, Édouard Glissant et la malédiction de la théorie) broke new ground analyzing the relationship between Western literary theory and non-Eurocentric texts in the works of renowned Caribbean writers Édouard Glissant and Maryse Condé. His second book (Mongo Beti: le combattant fatigue. Une biographie intellectuelle) is the most authoritative study to date of the Cameroon writer, intellectual and activist Mongo Beti, one of the most prominent figures in Francophone literature. He also pubklished a bilingual edition of the white papers of students’ strike at the University of Yaoundé (Mémoires des années de braise.La grève estudiantine de 1991 expliquée/Remember the Flame: White Papers from the 1990 Yaoundé University Strikes.). Professor Kemedjio’s current project seeks to unearth the genealogies of humanitarian interventions in Africa, and their attendant uneasy connections with the multilayered sites of power. The provisional title of this project is “Ota Benga and the Fictions of Humanitarianism.”

Professor Kemedjio has served on the Executive Board of the Association of African Literature, chaired the Executive Board of the Division of Francophone Cultures and Literatures of the MLA. Cilas Kemedjio is Director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester and the President of the African Literature Association).

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