Post-Soul: an Introduction to New Black Aesthetics
How can we think about the variety and diversity of Black art and politics since the Civil Rights Movement? Post-Soul is perhaps the most recent, or most adhesive, moniker in a longer line of “posts”: post-liberated, post-black, post-post soul, and so on, all of which intend to signal a radical break with what came before. Post-soul, and New Black Aesthetics more broadly, explores the changing possibilities of Black cultural production in light of the increasingly complex historical contingencies of Black social and political life, not least the victories and racist retrenchments of the 1960s and after. For thinkers such as Bertram Ashe, the artistic freedom owed to the fight for civil rights fostered an increasing differentiation in the meaning and signification of blackness, fracturing the unitary Black identity that Civil Rights itself projected. Others rebut this formulation, insisting that different struggles for Black freedom—emancipation, Reconstruction, the Black Arts Movement, and Black Power—feature just as prominently as, if not more so than, allusions to the Civil Rights Movement. How does New Black Aesthetics engage the art and lives of Black subjects and their material relations with the recent and distant past as a way of understanding and critiquing the present?
In this course, we will survey the field of Post-Soul aesthetics in film, music, literature, and criticism with a focus on the 21st century. With readings from Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Mark Anthony Neal, Simone White, Kiese Laymon, Alexander Weheliye, Kathrine McKitrick, Jonah Mixon-Webster, and others, we will ask: what can thinking with Post-Soul aesthetics teach us about historical rupture and social change related to the lives of African American people today?
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 07 — June 28, 2022