Johnalynn Holland, Gayl Jones

Gayl Jones: Mosquito

Instructor: Joseph Earl Thomas
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Though Gayl Jones is one of the most important writers of the 20th Century, with work that spans prose and poetic examinations of Black women’s lives all across the world, the publication of her 1999 novel Mosquito was met with significant ambivalence. Henry Louis Gates refers to Mosquito as Gayl Jones’s “dissertation”—an imitation of actual oral storytelling, rather than “a linear narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end.” For Gates, Mosquito’s diction is too inconsistent, often infiltrated by Jones’ own. Yet, the book prompted Greg Tate to proclaim Jones as “the Black novelist we all want to be when we grow up.” Indeed, there’s something spectacular about Jones’s 600-page novel about a Black woman truck driver working for the Sanctuary movement to help migrants across the Mexico-U.S. border, a narrator whose consciousness is infiltrated as much by the musings of her friends Monkey Bread and Delgadina as it is by philosophy, geopolitics, racial, sexual, and gender identities, language, and what she is not willing, or interested, in telling us. How can we understand Jones’s kaleidoscopic novel of the “new underground railroad”? Why did it meet with such ambivalence on release? If Mosquito doesn’t “tell ya’ll the whole story,” what do its elisions teach us—about race, gender, migration, self-narrative, and how we read now?

In this course we will read the majority of Jones’s Mosquito with a focus on what forms of narrative expectation the novel rejects, and to what ends. While thinking of Jones’s work more broadly, and the criticism surrounding it, we will also consider how Mosquito might help us think about culture and otherness, particularly into the early twenty-first century. What social, political, or historical nuance can be gained through centering the perspective of Jones’s Mosquito, without erasing the contradictions between its narrator(s) and world? Readings will include most of Mosquito (with the full text made available), and supplemental readings by Greg Tate, Namwali Serpell, Imani Perry, and others

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 05 — June 26, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open

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