Journal Prompts

Week One

In class last week, we briefly pondered about what the “This” refers to in the titular lyrics “This is America.”  One idea was that we might read (Donald Glover as) Childish Gambino as an embodiment of America.   The idea interestingly asks us to consider the nature of something like an American body.  More pointedly it invites us to examine the relationship between the black body and what we understand America to be.  As I mentioned the idea that Childish Gambino embodies America in the video “This is America” is complicated and challenged by the fact that much of Childish Gambino’s performance in the music video also appears in the short musical film Guava Island by Donald Glover’s character Deni on the fictional (Caribbean-esque) island outside of the United States.

In this prompt, I encourage you to use this complication not to dismiss the question but deepen our engagement with both texts; with the effect of Glover’s intertextual in the film and in the music video; and with how such intertextual crossing and reimagining affects the way we might interpret the cultural, political, and/or aesthetic stakes of black bodies in motion in the music video and/or the film. For this prompt, you might begin with a straight forward compare and contrast examination of the two texts and then hone in on one or two aspects of that compare and contrast examination for further analysis.  As you focus your analysis, you want to make sure that you think about the significance of the particular similarities and/or difference you’re focusing in on both in the particular part of the text(s) in which they appear but also in how we understand one of the overarching themes/objectives of the video and/or film.

Week 2

Respond to the questions Keenan posed in his post

Week 3

You have the option of continuing your discussion about the the first couple of episodes of Atlanta in your journal. In particular you might consider the following:

  • 1- To what degree does this show make use of something like absurdism or magical realism?
  • 2- And what is the effect of this magical realism? How does it affect the way we read Atlanta, race, blackness, or other aspects of the show?
  • 3-Spend sometime thinking about what it does to make Ern the primary (though not only) vantage points through which we enter the world and issues portrayed in this show

Week 4

What is the difference between liberty and freedom?

Weeks 5, 6, & 7

Select from the following prompts for last week’s, this week’s, and next week’s journal entries.  After next week, the prompt will be provided by one of your class mates. 

  • 1- Identify and close read the transition between two (adjacent) letters in The Color Purple.  You should consider both the juxtaposition of the explicitly stated material at the end of one letter and the beginning of the next as well as the implied material in the break between the letters (i.e. the passage of time, change of location, change in weather; other changes in the material condition of one or more of the characters’ lives).  
  • 2- Alice Walker is the author of The Color Purple, but Celie is the author of the letters we read (or at the very least Alice Walker performing as Celie is the author of the letters).  Keeping in mind the additional meta-layer of narration is extremely important even if at times it feels easy to conflate Walker and Celie authorial role.   Identify and close read a section of the novel in which part of the richness of the signification at play in the text depends on the interplay between Walker as writer and Celie as writer. 
  • 3- Identifying specific moments in each of the respective texts, compare and contrast the depiction and role of education in The Color Purple versus the depiction and role of education in The Souls of Black Folk or an episode of Atlanta.  
  • 4- How do black travel, diasporic connection, and/or black cultural transmission in The Color Purple resonate with / speak to Paul Gilroy’s ideas of a Black Atlantic circulation?
  • 5- Imagine and create an email exchange between one of the following groups: 
    • A – Celie; W.E.B. Du Bois; and Paper Boi
    • B – Shug Avery;  Booker T. Washington; and Darius
    • C – Sophia; Van; and Paul Gilroy
    • D – Mary Agnes (Squeaks); Dr. Deborah Holt; and Kofi
  • The email exchange should span at least a week, include at least two correspondences per participant, mention an actual headline from the last six months that’s appeared in a real life news outlet.  
  • 6- Create an enrichment activity specifically tailored for a small group of primary students selected for the area school’s new collaboration with the city university–an an initiative called One to Reach One (O2RO). O2RO trains and manages volunteers to provide targeted extra-curricular instruction to groups of 4-6 students for a couple hours each week.  Your group of students include:  Tobias, the student in white face in the episode “Value”; Suzi Q (Jolentha), Harpo’s youngest daughter; Dodo, Victor, and Mapi, the group of kids who attempt to rob Deni in Guava Island.  Your lesson plan (the learning objectives and teaching outcomes as well as the activity content should be tailored to a specific need identified for this group of students).