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Representing the Black Female Body

Taught by Karin Wimbley

This course will introduce students to the emerging interdisciplinary field of visual culture by examining representations of the black female body. By critically reading the ways that categories of difference and identity have been inscribed onto the black female body, the course will illuminate the significant relationship between the visual/embodied “signs” of identity we encounter every day, the meanings attached to those signs, and the social and institutional practices that derive from, and resist, this “fixing.” The course texts and discussions will pay particular attention to the mechanics of visual encoding and decoding as they occur in popular renderings of racialized, gendered, sexualized, and classed bodies in literature, film, drama, and visual art. We will keep in mind how these representations respond to and interact with American culture’s understanding of race. Texts explored include works by Kara Walker, Suzan-Lori Parks, Spike Lee, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, and Carrie Mae Weems.