I enjoy teaching interdisciplinary courses across the fields of American studies, African American studies, cultural history, and musicology.
In fall 2021, I am teaching junior and senior tutorials in History and Literature, as well as the seminar “Sound and Color: Music, Race, and U.S. Cultural Politics.” Here’s the course description:
Although race is often presumed to be a visual phenomenon, it is also created and produced through sound. But what does race sound like? What might we learn when we attune our ears to the music and noise that race makes in popular music, on the stage, and in literature? How can texts like songs, films, and novels both reinforce and challenge cultural hierarchies and arrangements of social power? This course explores the sonification of race and the racialization of sound, music, and noise in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present. The first unit will consider examples ranging from blackface minstrel shows (the nineteenth-century nation’s most popular form of entertainment) to the noise ordinances that governed sonic life in urban immigrant neighborhoods at the turn of the twentieth century. In the second unit, we turn our attention to two important postwar genres, the novel and the Broadway musical. Investigating works like Ralph Ellison’s majestic Invisible Man (1952) and shows like West Side Story (1957), we’ll ask how mid-century artists and writers re-imagined the relationship between race and sound. The third and final unit focuses upon a selection of contemporary case studies; for instance, Pixar’s Soul (2020), or the Afrofuturist worldmaking of Janelle Monáe. As we delve into these cultural texts, we’ll listen closely to how they represent race in relation to other analytical categories such as gender, class, sexuality, and citizenship. In addition to developing skills in interdisciplinary analysis and close reading, students will also have the opportunity to pursue creative projects.
In History and Literature, I have also taught a seminar called “Music and Resistance in the Modern United States.” Here’s the course description:
While music is often touted as a “universal language” that generates social harmony, it also expresses dissent from and resistance to the status quo. This course asks how music works as a type of social and political resistance, and what aesthetic and formal qualities enable it to do so. We will explore the relationship between music and resistance in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century United States, in contexts that range from Ma Rainey’s defiant blues songs to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster musical Hamilton. Focusing especially (but not exclusively) on African American music and musicians, we will consider how music informs modes of resistance tied to race, class, gender, and sexuality. In addition to asking how music can resist extant arrangements of power, we will also consider the types of futures that music can imagine. By examining an array of historical sources, theoretical texts, and sonic archives, students will develop the ability to analyze music from a critical and interdisciplinary perspective. There will also be opportunities for hands-on and creative projects.