Lisa B. Thompson
Associate Professor — Ph. D., Program in Modern Thought & Literature, Stanford University
Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 512-471-4656
- Office: Belmont 240A
Lisa B. Thompson is the author of the book Beyond The Black Lady: Sexuality And The New African American Middle Class (University of Illinois Press, 2009) which received Honorable Mention in competition for the Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize from the National Women's Studies Association. Her scholarship has appeared in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Finding A Way Home: A Critical Assessment Of Walter Mosley’s Fiction (University Press of Mississippi, 2008), and From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances (Wayne State University Press, 2011). She is also the author of several plays including Single Black Female (Samuel French, Inc., 2012) which has been produced throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Dr. Thompson is the recipient of fellowships and research support from Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the University of California’s Office of the President, Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, UCLA's Center for African American Studies, the Five Colleges Inc., the United University Professions and Stanford University's Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.
AFR 372C • Rethinking Blackness
MWF 1100am-1200pm SZB 416
(also listed as
AMS 321, E 376M, WGS 340 )
Cultural critic Wahneema Lubiano argues that “postmodernisn offers a site for African American cultural critics and producers to utilize a discursive space that foregrounds the possibility of rethinking history, political positionality in the cultural domain, the relationship between cultural politics and subjectivity, and the politics of narrative aesthetics”. Other scholars such as Cornel West conclude that the Black experience in American is fundamentally absurd. If postmodernism is characterized by a de-centered human subjectivity then the Black condition in the Americans is fundamentally postmodern. This course examines texts that re-imagine Black subjectivity beyond traditional narratives of suffering and oppression. Class participants will become acquainted with a variety of genres such as literary satire, rock musical, faux documentary, and speculative fiction.
Paul Beatty “White Boy Shuffle” (1996)
Octavia Butler “Kindred” (1979)
Edward P. Jones “The Known World” (2003)
Andrea Lee “Sarah Phillips” (1984)
Jill Nelson “Volunteer Slavery” (1993)
Baratunde Thurston “How to Be Black” (2012)
Grading breakdown (percentages):
Essay One – 5 pages – 20%
Midterm – 30%
Presentation – 10%
Essay 2 – 7 pages – 30%
Participation – 10%
AFR F372E • Black Film
MTWTHF 1130am-100pm JES A230
(also listed as
AMS F325, WGS F340 )
This course is primarily designed to introduce students to African American film produced both inside and outside the Hollywood mainstream. The course traces the history of African American film culture from 1970s blaxploitation films to the emergence of a formidable number of black filmmakers such as Spike Lee, John Singleton and Charles Burnett who gained prominence during the 1980s and 1990s. The class will also discuss the work of independent directors such as Julie Dash, Kasi Lemmons, Cheryl Dunye, and black feminist critics as we examine issues of gender and sexuality in African American film. Finally we will discuss the controversy surrounding the work of emergent black filmmakers such as Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels, as well as the hopes for a prosperous indendent black cinema inspired by AAFRM (African American Film Releasing Movement) and director/producer Ava Durvernay .
During the term we will consider how these filmmakers engage with and refute dominant cultural images of African Americans as well as create a cinematic language specifically derived from African American experiences. Besides screening films students are expected to read articles on film theory and cultural criticism. The course material is selective since this is a very large body of material and our time is limited. However, the class attempts to offer as encompassing and representative a perspective as possible. Although the class does not require any prior knowledge of or experience with film studies, I expect students to become active, skilled, critical viewers of African American cinema and astute readers of film scholarship.
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, fourth edition
Manthia Diawara, Black American Cinema
Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film
Bell hooks, Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies
Mark Reid, Black Lenses, Black Voices: African American Film Now
Selected articles on Blackboard designated by *.
Essays & Response Papers
Students will write weekly (1-2 page) response papers about each film screened that explores that section’s theme. Students are also required to write two essays during the course of the semester. For the first essay (4-5 pages) students will thematically or cinematically compare two films. The final essay (7-10 pages) will be a research paper that provides an in-depth critical analysis of a specific issue relevant to the study of contemporary African American film. Topics may include but are not limited to:
- Representation of African Americans in a particular genre (comedy, drama, documentary, musical, horror etc.)
- Depictions of black youth or childhood
- The work of a particular artist (director, actor, screenwriter, etc.)
- The role of the soundtrack in African American film
- Financial barriers to black filmmakers
- Renderings of African American masculinity or womanhood
- Imaginary homeland: Africa and/or the Caribbean in black film
- The use of historical events in African American film
Please note that written assignments must be turned in at the BEGINNING of class—late papers will be penalized. All work must be typed, stapled, doubled-spaced, with 12-point font and one-inch margins. Consult the MLA Style Manual or The Chicago Manual of Style for appropriate citation and formatting. It is incumbent upon you to keep a personal copy of all work that you submit.
The presentation (5-minutes) is an opportunity for you to discuss the findings from your final research paper. I encourage you to be inventive! You can design a website, film a video or create a PowerPoint or a poster presentation. I advise you to and to rehearse your presentation beforehand to check your timing and its coherence.
Make sure to complete all reading before class and participate fully in discussions and exercises (presentations, quizzes and group projects). Remember to bring texts to class because you may be called upon to read an excerpt or analyze a passage. Each student is expected to speak during EVERY class. We will screen several films during the course of the term. You are to be an attentive, active audience. I expect you to take notes since our discussions rely on your critical observations of the films. Note that prompt and regular attendance is expected. Tardiness is disrespectful to me and to your classmates. Please be advised that if you miss more than ONE class or are consistently late (twice) your grade will suffer by at least 10%.
Grades will be calculated as follows:
Essay 1 20%
Essay 2 30%
Response Papers 25%
AFR 317F • Toni Morrison & August Wilson
TTH 1230pm-200pm SZB 524
(also listed as
WGS 301 )
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and Tony award-winning playwright August Wilson are two of the most honored and prolific African American writers in recent history. They both make race (and particularly blackness) central to their work. Morrison, considered a "leading voice in current debates about constructions of race and gender in U.S. literature and culture...refuses to allow race to be relegated to the margins of literary discourse." Similarly, Wilson cautioned against a premature, post-racial vision of the world, especially considering the cultural politics of American theatre. During the term we will study how notions of race and power erupt in Morrison's "fantastic earthy realism" and Wilson's "dramatic vision." We will also trace African American cultural influences such as folktales, blues and jazz in their writing. Finally, we will measure their reach and authority as public intellectuals by discussing their essays, interviews, and speeches.
By Toni Morrison
What Moves in the Margin: Selected Non-Fiction
By August Wilson:
Joe Turner's Come & Gone
AFR 372C • Black Middle Class
TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 203
(also listed as
E 376M, WGS 340 )
During this term we will embark on an interdisciplinary exploration of the African American middle class with a particular emphasis on the post-Civil Rights era. Using autobiography, film, history, photography, literature, music, television, and sociology this course will consider how the black middle class has been imagined, defined and represented. By examining the debates within and about the black middle class, we will complicate constructions of race in America. The course is particularly interested in investigating the following: the idea of class privilege for a racially marginalized group; conflicts between the black middle class and the working class; the role of the black middle class in policing black sexuality; the notion of middle class rage; the rise of the black nerd; assertions of racial authenticity; the new black aesthetic; the politics of affirmative action.
Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition
Nella Larsen, Passing
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Amira Baraka/LeRoi Jones, The Dutchman
"Single Black Female." Directed by Martin Wilkins. Produced by Kingston 6 Entertainment. George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Canada. March 13, 2010-March 21, 2010.
"Single Black Female." Directed by Colman Domingo. Produced by the New Professional Theatre. The Duke on 42nd Street, New York City. June 10-June 29, 2008.
Variety review: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117937408
"Mother’s Day." A short featured in the ensemble production "Black Women: State of the Union." The Black Box at the Alexandria Hotel. Company of Angels Theatre, Los Angeles, California. February 20, 2009-March 10, 2009.
A clip from Mother’s Day directed by Ayana Carr: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-weaYKvV3AU
"Single Black Female." Directed by Colman Domingo. Produced by the New Professional Theatre. Peter Jay Sharpe Theatre, New York City. June 15-June 25, 2006.
New York Times review: http://theater.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/theater/reviews/20fema.html?_r=0