Friday, September 1, 2017

Racism and Human Diversity: Medieval Narratives of Blackness

History has its eyes on you

An American Musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda

Course Description and Outcomes

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards were founded in 1935 by Cleveland philanthropist and poet, Edith Anisfield-Wolf. Her desire was to establish an award for books that promoted social justice and tolerance by addressing cultural and racial diversity. Since its foundation, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards have honored the best fiction and non-fiction that exemplify these principals. Winners of the award include the novelist Toni Morrison, the literary critic Edward Said, and the historian David Blight.

In this seminar, we will read selections of poetry and books by winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards alongside other films and texts from the Middle Ages to the modern day which offer contextual and historical insights into the wider framework of social issues, social justice and diversity that undergird the selected award books. Additionally, students will get the chance to attend the 2017 Awards ceremony and visit to the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award collection at the Cleveland Public Library.

Course Objectives (Reflecting SAGES Learning Outcomes)
By the end of the course you will be able to

  • Sympathize across multiple perspectives in academic conversations
  • Analyze ethical debates and offer critical inquiries
  • Research relevant historical contexts and scholarship 
  • Argue in written and oral forms according to the dialectic method
  • Help others to understand racism through clear verbal communication


Selections from the Reading List

Racism and Human Diversity centers its reading and discussion around four winners of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Additional readings and in class viewings serve to offer historical context which augment the four focal texts. The goal of the readings is to draw out the major themes and historical contexts which run through and around the four texts, what come to be identified as "Medieval Narratives of Blackness." These narratives includes ideas of Nation and Religion, White Supremacy and the Role of Medievalism/Historians, The Stonewall Riots and Intersections of Race & Sex, and finally, Poetry and the Prison Industrial Complex. 

Primary Texts (drawn from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards)

  • Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth 
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (film adaptation)
  • Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution
  • R. Phillips, Heaven


Medieval Context for the Aryan Myth
  • The King of Tars 
  • Selections from Arthurian Romance, "On Sir. Palamedes"
  • John Mandeville, Book of Marvels & Travels

"Neo-Medieval" Film Context for Beloved
  • D.W. Griffith (dir.), Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Ron Clements and John Musker (dir.), The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Queer/Trans People of Color Context for The Gay Revolution
  • Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning
  • Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

BLM/Law Enforcement Context for Heaven
  • Ava DuVernay, 13th (2016)
  • Sam Miller, Luke Cage 


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