F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Final Project Proposal

My final project stems from our early readings in the course on Black Atlantic classics, as well as my desire to have all the research and writing that I do in my current and remaining courses to relate directly to my upcoming comprehensive examinations and dissertation project. For my exams, I will examine contemporary African American literature as my primary field of specialty and Caribbean and Black British literature as my secondary fields. Essentially, my exams with focus on the Black Atlantic space. My dissertation will focus on Black women and humor in contemporary literature across the diaspora, analyzing humor, irony, and satire in works written by Black women as well as in representations of Black women. My aim is to identify and discuss the significance of humor as a literary and rhetorical mode of self-fashioning and community-building for Black women across the diaspora not simply as a reactive response to racial and gendered oppression, but rather as a creative, generative, and rhetorically-informed meaning-making force in itself.

Central to my project will be theorizing Black women’s humor from a diasporic perspective, which will require close engagement with Black Atlantic literary and cultural theory. I’ve discovered in my research that Black Atlantic, transatlantic, and diasporic Africana theories abound in the scholarship, but bringing these theories together and identifying the differences and resonances among them is a difficult and time-consuming process. I believe that a useful digital humanities project would be a Black Atlantic Theory database, which would bring scholarship and criticism that defines, expands, critiques, and challenges the idea of the Black Atlantic as a theoretical-geopolitical entity. Such a database would be too expansive in scope for both the amount of time I have to complete a final project in this class and also beyond my negligible expertise with digital tools and resources. Thus, for my project, I’d like to begin to attempt to create a small prototype of what the more extensive and robust database would be at its core. Essentially, my site will take a form similar to a #syllabus in that it will list academic texts (with brief annotations), including books and journal articles, relevant to Black Atlantic theory. Since my project will only be a small sliver of the database that I envision, I will narrow my focus to foundational theoretical texts, including Paul Gilroy’s book and scholarly responses to it. I will also include a section of texts on humor across the Black Atlantic as an example of how such a database might include sub-sections that show how Black Atlantic theory has been applied to various specific areas of literary and cultural study. This project will thus serve two purposes: a personal one, as it will allow me to begin to compile the reading list for my GQEs, and a public one, since it will be made available as an open-source web document and will allow other students and scholars to make connections between various Black Atlantic theories and applications of those theories as they apply to a specific topic (in this case, humor). 

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