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First-Year Writing Seminar: Why Black People Tend to Shout

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number FIRST-UG428
Section 001
Instructor Sybil Cooksey
Days Tue Thu
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


In a book with an outwardly jokey title, journalist Ralph Wiley offers up some fairly serious views about  Why Black People Tend To Shout  (1991). “When joy, pain, anger, confusion and frustration, ego and thought, mix it up, the way they do inside black people,” he says, “the uproar is too big to hold inside. The feeling must be aired.” In this course we will consider both the joking and serious import of Wiley’s provocative (but not unproblematic) assertion by drawing on a theoretical framework provided to us by affect studies. Several carefully chosen case studies in black peoples’ shouting draw our attention to the role that “catching feelings” often plays in creating and sustaining notions of community, protest and resistant politics. Readings on a variety of subjects—ring shouts and race riots, black power protests and protest novels, spoken word poetry and prophetic hip hop, the Black Arts movement and Black Lives Matter—are designed to fuel thoughtful and exploratory discussions whose references run the gamut from church ladies hollering “Hallelujah” to Chester Himes’s  If He Hollers Let Him Go , to Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” and Tupac Shakur’s “Holler If Ya Hear Me.” In each instance, we will attempt to uncover specific spiritual, political, psychological and aesthetic motives for (or effects of) airing inside feelings in public spaces. Our collective inquiry might provoke some heated—and hilarious—conversations; it will definitely provide us with an opportunity to critically and conscientiously engage key concepts in black cultural studies.


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Writing Seminars (FIRST-UG)