Week of November 27: (Day Class) Assata Shakur’s Autobiography

Announcements:

  • I gave out hard copies of the last written assignment of the semester. Download yours from the assignments page if you missed class. It’s due Tuesday December 4.

For Tuesday November 27, read the first 79 pages (chapters 1-4) of Assata: An Autobiography. Be sure to read the foreward by Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds. Also make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 1,17,44, and 62.

Questions to think about:

  • How effective is her style of storytelling? Does the non-linear narrative with flashbacks make the book more engaging?
  • How does Assata go about re-telling history?
  • What role do poems play in an autobiography? What do they tell you about Assata or the other people that the regular story does not?

What physical spaces and places does Assata describe in the story? What is the significance of them?

We are not primarily concerned with figuring out guilt innocence here (and in any case don’t have all the court documents to review): the goal is to read her story as we would any other autobiography and focus on how the story develops and how she develops into the person she is today. Look for clues of these things in the story.

Extra: Listen to “A Song for Assata” by Common, from his 2000 Like Water for Chocolate release, featuring CeeLo Green.

 

For Thursday November 29, read pages 80-147 (Chapters 5-9) in Assata Shakur’s Autobiography. Again, make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on page 130 (“Love”). Think also about the themes that you should now be able to identify that we’ve been working on all semester. Note specific places in the book where they appear and mark examples of them in your text.

Presentation by Mislie, Tati, and Nadira

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Week of November 13: (Night Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

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Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.

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Reminder: The next writing assignment, due Tuesday 11/20, is on the Assignments page. You can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password. Be sure to stop by the Lehman library now if you’re having trouble finding acceptable articles to use. Note that the NY Public Library uses the same databases and any location can help you also. Finally, don’t forget that if you need writing assistance fropm the ACE Center, make an appointment now so you have enough time.

On Tuesday November 13th, we continue with Soledad. Read chapters 4-5: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition.

Presentation by Gabby and Petrice

For Thursday November 15th, read pages 112-164 (Chapters 6-7) of Soledad. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?

Week of November 13: (Day Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

4532037658_c96e8fa3fa_o
Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.

cvr9780743212021_9780743212021_lg

Reminder: The next writing assignment, due Tuesday 11/20, is on the Assignments page. You can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password. Be sure to stop by the Lehman library now if you’re having trouble finding acceptable articles to use. Note that the NY Public Library uses the same databases and any location can help you also. Finally, don’t forget that if you need writing assistance fropm the ACE Center, make an appointment now so you have enough time.

On Tuesday November 13th, we continue with Soledad. Read chapters 4-5: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition.

For Thursday November 15th, read pages 112-164 (Chapters 6-7) of Soledad. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?

Week of November 6 (NIGHT class): Dutchman conclusion and Soledad

Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman.

Announcements:

  • Election day is Tuesday November 6. CUNY classes (including ours) are still in effect. Find your local polling place and other info here.
  • I gave out the assignment sheet to the next paper, which is due November 20. It’s on the Assignments page if you’ve lost/don’t have one. You can also stream Do the Right Thing from the course website on the Video page–same password as everything else. You can also watch it in the Lehman Library and it’s available to rent in all the usual places. I suggest watching it at least one more time and taking good notes while you watch.
  • Quasi-related, but I’ll be speaking on a panel about the 50th anniversary of Lehman’s Africana Studies department on Thursday 11/8 in Lovinger Theater from 12:30-2. Stop by!

For Tuesday November 6, we finish our discussion of Dutchman. Re-read Clay’s final speech at the end of the play and other key sections. Think about last week’s discussion questions and what makes it an urban play. Also think about how you might stage it as a play. How might characters act? How would you imagine them? We’ll watch clips of performances and compare them. Read Baraka’s short essay “The Revolutionary Theatre” (download the PDF here) and relate it to Dutchman. Does the play do what he proposes here?

See my lecture notes on Dutchman

Extra: Listen to Baraka reading the essay in 1965 in the WNYC Radio archives.

Watch the 1967 film version of Dutchman via YouTube. This production follows Baraka’s script closely and is one of the best productions you will see. It’s approximately 54 minutes.

Optional: Watch an interview I did for The Queens Grapevine on Amiri Baraka’s life and legacy.

 

 

On Thursday, 11/8, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"
Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

Read the first 3 chapters: up to page 45 in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?

Presentation by Noemi and José.

Week of November 6 (DAY class): Dutchman conclusion and Soledad

Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman.

Announcements:

  • Election day is Tuesday November 6. CUNY classes (including ours) are still in effect. Find your local polling place and other info here.
  • I gave out the assignment sheet to the next paper, which is due November 20. It’s on the Assignments page if you’ve lost/don’t have one. You can also stream Do the Right Thing from the course website on the Video page–same password as everything else. You can also watch it in the Lehman Library and it’s available to rent in all the usual places. I suggest watching it at least one more time and taking good notes while you watch.
  • Quasi-related, but I’ll be speaking on a panel about the 50th anniversary of Lehman’s Africana Studies department on Thursday 11/8 in Lovinger Theater from 12:30-2. Stop by!

For Tuesday November 6, we finish our discussion of Dutchman. Re-read Clay’s final speech at the end of the play and other key sections. Think about last week’s discussion questions and what makes it an urban play. Also think about how you might stage it as a play. How might characters act? How would you imagine them? We’ll watch clips of performances and compare them. Read Baraka’s short essay “The Revolutionary Theatre” (download the PDF here) and relate it to Dutchman. Does the play do what he proposes here?

See my lecture notes on Dutchman

Extra: Listen to Baraka reading the essay in 1965 in the WNYC Radio archives.

Optional: Watch an interview I did for The Queens Grapevine on Amiri Baraka’s life and legacy.

 

 

On Thursday, 11/8, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"
Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

Read the first 3 chapters: up to page 45 in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?

Week of October 30 (Night class): Do the Right Thing conclusion and Dutchman

On Tuesday October 30, we’ll discuss Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and  the readings assigned for it. To prepare, (re)read the following:

  • The excerpt from from Murray Forman’s book The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) on reading urban space, which is a PDF on the Readings page.
  • Then read this article from New York magazine (“The Tipping of Jefferson Avenue” ) on the intersection of race and Brooklyn gentrification.
  • Make a list of themes you saw covered in the film
  • Here’s the sheet of viewing notes (PDF) I gave out in class if you missed/lost it.
  • See my Do the Right Thing lecture notes on the lecture notes page

Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman

On Thursday, November 1, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). For Thursday, read only the first half of the book: the play Dutchman. Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

Presentation by Gordon, Nelson, Kevin, and Becca.

Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?

Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?

Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.

Week of October 30 (Day class): Do the Right Thing conclusion and Dutchman

On Tuesday October 30, we’ll discuss Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and  the readings assigned for it. To prepare, (re)read the following:

  • The excerpt from from Murray Forman’s book The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) on reading urban space, which is a PDF on the Readings page.
  • Then read this article from New York magazine (“The Tipping of Jefferson Avenue” ) on the intersection of race and Brooklyn gentrification.
  • Make a list of themes you saw covered in the film
  • Here’s the sheet of viewing notes (PDF) I gave out in class if you missed/lost it.
  • See my Do the Right Thing lecture notes on the lecture notes page

Photo: Still from the 1967 film version of Dutchman

On Thursday, November 1, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). For Thursday, read only the first half of the book: the play Dutchman. Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

Presentation by Fabrice.

Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?

Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?

Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.