Skip to Main Content

Black Studies: Course Descriptions, 2020-

A guide to our history, our present, our future, solely for our wellbeing.

Black Music: Black Music Division – Reimagined (MHI2238.01) Fall 2022

Faculty: Michael Wimberly

In the early 70s Bennington music faculty members Bill Dixon and Milford Graves guided Bennington students through a black aesthetic, an awakening using music, words and deeds. Their compositions, teachings, and innovative approach to creative music boldly addressed a multitude of issues in the wake of the Civil Rights, Feminist, and Black Power Movements. This ever-evolving course reflects on the social, political, and cultural content created as an outcry from artists such as Nina Simone, Beyoncé Knowles, Jimi Hendrix, The Last Poets, Public Enemy, Kendrick Lamar, and countless others. Students will investigate how these movements instigated an awakening in the artistic and political community that inspired a revolution that continues to resonate today. Additionally, students will contribute to reimagining how the Black Music Division can be retooled to reach across disciplines at Bennington. Researching Bennington’s archives, which include documentaries, photos, video, recorded, and written words from the 2017 installation of Black Spring presented in the USDAN Gallery, and 2019’s installation presented in Jennings, DCB, and the Barn; students will formulate and create a collective memory installation through a campus invited presentation.

Out of Dark Noise: The History of Black Documentary Poetics (LIT4357.01) Spring 2022

Faculty: Anaïs Duplan

“Dark noise,” as Black video artist Lawrence Andrews calls it, is an alternate truth-building system. The idea of dark noise indicates a sort of failed consensual reality, or in Audre Lorde’s terminology, a “chaos of knowledge.” Dark noise is the area outside of the state-sanctioned truth that the justice system, for instance, relies upon. As such, we will use the phrase “dark noise” to describe the works of Black experimental documentarians whose decolonized creative approaches have generated novel spaces of cultural memory. Much of this cultural memory is made up of written documents—from the legal certificates that define us to the collections of creative writings that inspire us. As we will explore, these documents always bear the markers of power. Working within the framework of documentary poetics, creative writers have an ethical obligation to examine and disclose their participation in social systems, creating sites of engaged witness and knowledge production via their creative output. As a class, we will appreciate poetics itself as an integral part of the body politic, tracing the contributions of Black writers, visual artists, and musicians to the field of documentary poetics since the 1960s. Students will work toward the completion of a final interdisciplinary docupoetic work, writing regular critical responses along the way.

Racialized Chronologies: Alternative Temporal Structures in Contemporary Poetry (LIT2511.01) Fall 2022

Faculty: Anaïs Duplan

In 2019, curator Meg Onli presented a three-part exhibition, Colored People Time, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.  Onli’s engagement with the phrase “colored people’s time” drew attention to the role of temporal structures in socioracial control. Similarly, scholars of African American Vernacular English ––such as the beloved poet and activist June Jordan––have drawn attention to the unique temporal opportunities of Black English, including tense structures (you stay doin’ that) that exist only there. Through a survey of Black contemporary poetry and theoretical writings on Black temporality, RACIALIZED CHRONOLOGIES seeks to articulate the temporally-based strategies of refusal emanant in Black poetry. Moving away and against punctuality, we survey the slow time of “racial melancholia” (in the words of  David L. Eng and Shinhee Han); the quickness of mania, neuroticism, and anxiety; and the cyclic nature of Black death and grief. So too we ruminate on Rasheedah Phillips’ concepts of “temporal abundance”, along with what Daylanne K. English calls “strategic anachronism” and “strategic presentism.”

Black in Venice: Race, Representation, and the 59th Biennale, Renaissance to Contemporary (AH4125.02) Fall 2022

Faculty: Vanessa Lyon

In this 3-week module, an art history and cultural studies-based trip, advanced art history and VA students will spend the majority of their time engaging and presenting to the group their prior research on the contemporary art and artists of the 59th Annual Venice Biennale in its two locations (Arsenale and Giardini)—where the U.S. is represented for the first time by a Black woman artist, sculptor, Simone Leigh. Additional time will be spent visiting canonical works of art and architecture by the major artists of the Venetian Renaissance (Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Palladio, etc.) and architectural sites in Vicenza and Ravenna. Prior to the trip, in addition to preparatory reading, discussion, and short papers, each student will be assigned two artists (one pre-1800 and one contemporary) and a site for research. Vanessa Lyon will conduct two (2 hr 50 minute) seminars in each of two weeks leading up to the trip.