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Black Women, Beyonc & Popular Culture

ENGL 3613/AAS 4013/WS 4953

Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks
MB 2.468
Office Hours: M 3:00-5:00 pm and by appointment

Course Description
Beyonc Knowles 2016 audiovisual project, Lemonade, has become a
movement. Professor Harry M. Benshoff, a film scholar at the University of North
Texas, proclaims that Beyonc got the entire world to watch a 55-minute avantgarde film. Lemonade is a meditation on contemporary black womanhood. The
purpose of this class is to explore the theoretical, historical, and literary
frameworks of black feminism, which feature prominently in Lemonade. We will
use Lemonade as a starting point to examine the sociocultural issues that are
most prominent in black womanhood through black feminist theory, literature,
music, and film.

Required Texts:
Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Radicalism,
Patricia Hill Collins
Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, Janell Hobson
Conjuring Moments in African American Literature: Women, Spirit Work, and
Other Such Hoodoo, Kameelah L. Martin
Sula, Toni Morrison
Mama Day, Gloria Naylor
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New
Orleans, LaKisha Simmons
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, Warsan Shire
Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class,
Lisa B. Thompson

Course Organization:
This course is designed to group the most intensive reading and writing
assignments at the beginning of the week. The intensity will taper off as the week
1. Mondays Theoretical Readings
a. These are your heaviest readings of the week. They are intensive
not so much because of their length but because of the depth of the
ideas with which you will be wrestling.
b. Your critical commentaries will center on your engagement with
your theoretical readings.

c. These readings are important because they will provide the

foundational ideas with which we will engage the work.
2. Wednesdays Literature Readings
a. These readings will be of varying lengths but will cover the fictional
texts we are engaging throughout the semester.
b. Your weekly reading quiz will center on your familiarity with the
literary texts.
c. Please bring index cards to class for this quiz.
3. Fridays Blog Readings
4. This format is subject to change due to speakers planned throughout the

Grade Distribution:
Critical Commentaries
Final Project
Final Exam
Reading Quizzes
Final Grade


As professor, I reserve the right to alter this syllabus at any time and in any way I
determine will serve the course goals. If you have concerns about the course, the
professor, or other students, you are invited to express them in a proactive
manner to me. I am always open to suggestions as to how participants needs
and interests might best be served.
The tone and language used in this course will not be sugarcoated. I will
intentionally provoke you in order to stimulate conversation and challenge your
comfort zones. This is by no means a way to attack your personal beliefs or
character; rather, my intentions are to force you to think about issues and
concerns from various viewpoints outside of your own.
My ultimate pedagogical purpose is to aid you in developing and strengthening
your own critical framework and testing its boundaries.

Course Guidelines
1. You will work harder in this course than you ever have before. Be ready to
read, write, and think in challenging ways. You will be reading the
equivalent of a little less than a book a week.
2. Please make sure you are ready, willing, and able for this type of rigor.
Studying race, gender, class and pop culture theory is incredibly fun...and
incredibly hard. Do an internal check for your maturity and ability to handle

such a self-directed course. There is no shame in deciding you are not

3. You do not have to be the smartest, most well read student in the
university. You do not have to be the best writer. You do not have to be
member of the Beyhive. I simply ask that you are willing to be
uncomfortable--to have your thoughts and ideas challenged--and then to
work/read/write your way through that uncomfortability in order to become
a stronger critical thinker.

Critical Commentaries:
Each week, you are to develop a critical, thoughtful, reflective discussion
question(s) based on your theoretical readings along with a critical commentary
(500 words, double-spaced). Submit your CC to me in Blackboard Learn as an
attached Microsoft Word file by 10:00 AM on Mondays. Your question(s) may
address the following issues:

Points of clarification of issues that appear ambiguous.

Specification of directions in which certain topics could be elaborated or
Points of contention related to conceptual, experiential, or research
Other research findings that are relevant to issues raised in the readings,
especially in conjunction with class discussions.
New applications of knowledge to personal, social, cultural, or educational
Critical Commentary Goals:
Demonstrate your level of learning and understanding of the assigned
texts and course content;
To provide thoughtful synthesis, critique, and analysis of literary theory
and course texts;
To interrogate ideas and ask informed questions;
To contend with your subjectivities and self-expression in a critical way
that recognizes and complicates your frameworks;
To engage the content, context, and implications of literary theory;
To connect literary theory and the course texts to your research and
teaching realities;
To contextualize your experiences in and out of class with respect to
literary theory and culture and
To reflect on your learning and understanding weekly and over the course
of the semester.

As such, each CC should build on previous texts (e.g., your own commentaries,
class discussions, reinterpretation of experiences, outside readings, etc.). Your

commentaries will be graded on a 10-point scale and I will drop your two lowest
N.B.: If there are parts of your CC you DO NOT want to share with the class,
please indicate such in the CC.

Final Project:
You will complete a three-minute film with an 8-10 page critique of your film in
groups of two. You will present your film and analysis in a presentation at the end
of the semester and will be judged by a panel of experts. More information is

Final Exam:
The final exam will take place on Monday, December 12 at 12:30 p.m. My
exams are composed of any mixture of three question types: identification, short
answer and essay. Please note that my exams are rigorous but there are no
tricks involved. I want you to do well on this exam, but it will take hard work.
There will be an in-depth review session before the exam. Course exams are
taken individually and they are not open book. Please bring a Blue Book to the
MAKE UP THIS EXAM BECAUSE OF ABSENCE. I urge you to consider these
dates before making travel plans.

Class Etiquette:
Please conduct yourself with common sense and home training. Do not spend
my entire class on your phone or playing on your computer. I can always see
youyou are not as surreptitious as you think you are.

Cell Phone Usage:

If you forget to put your phone on vibrate and it goes off, you can either choose
to leave for the rest of the class or bring snacks for everyone the next class.

Late Paper Policy:

I prefer to have all papers turned in to me on time. Unfortunately, I do realize that
life happens. I have instituted a strict policy for turning in a paper past its due
date. I must have 24 hours notice if your paper will be late. You will receive a 24hour grace period after which your grade will decrease by one letter grade each
day it is late. I will not accept a paper after three (3) days. You may only use this
service once during the semester, so choose wisely.

Absence Policy:
Class attendance is mandatory. You are expected to arrive promptly and there
are no early departures. Three tardy arrivals count as one absence. If you

decide to leave class early, it will count as an absence. If you miss more than
four classes, your final grade will be drop one whole letter grade (e.g. your final
grade of a B will drop to a C). If you miss more than six classes, you will receive
an F as your final grade. All absences count towards this number, both excused
and unexcused. I do not distinguish between the two. Yes, I am anal about this.

Office Hours/Email:
My office hours are listed above. During those times, you will find me in my
office waiting to help you. Please do not hesitate to come by with concerns
about your writing or the class, or if you just want to discuss the readings. You
wont need an appointment during that time; however, if youd like to make one
Id be glad to do so. Remember, Im here to help you, so dont be shy about
stopping by!
Everyone will have a conference with me in early October to discuss the final
You are also welcome to email me with concerns or questions, with one
condition: do not expect a same-day response after 9 PM. Late night inquiries
will be handled sometime the next day.

Concealed Carry Not in My Office!

Pursuant to HOP 9.48, Carrying of Concealed Handguns on Campus, my
private office (MB 2.468) is a designated exclusion zone. As set out in
Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed
handgun), a person licensed to carry a Concealed Handgun under Subchapter H,
Chapter 411 Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this
property/office with a concealed handgun.
De conformidad con HOP 9.48, Llevar Armas de Fuego Encubiertas en el
Campus, mi oficina privada (MB 2.468) es una zona designada de exclusin.
Conforme a la seccin 30.06 del cdigo penal (trespasar portando armas de
fuego) personas con licencia bajo del sub-capitulo H, capitulo 411, codigo de
gobierno (ley de portar armas), no deben entrar a esta propiedad portando un
arma de fuego.

University Academic Dishonesty Policy:

Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism,
collusion, and the submission for credit of any work or materials that are
attributable in whole or part to another person. Plagiarism is using someone
elses words or ideas without acknowledging the source. It is essentially stealing.
Dont do it. Any student who commits an act of scholastic dishonesty is subject
to discipline. Unpleasant, painful, and potentially embarrassing happenings shall
ensue. Outside sources you consult for assignments in this course (including

your papers and your discussion leading material) must be properly cited in MLA
style. If at any time you have any question whatsoever about how to attribute
something, or even when to attribute something, please, please, ask! Which
leads me to
The University of Texas at San Antonio Academic Honor Code


The University of Texas at San Antonio community of past, present and
future students, faculty, staff, and administrators share a commitment to
integrity and the ethical pursuit of knowledge. We honor the traditions of
our university by conducting ourselves with a steadfast duty to honor,
courage, and virtue in all matters both public and private. By choosing
integrity and responsibility, we promote personal growth, success, and
lifelong learning for the advancement of ourselves, our university, and our


Honor Pledge
In support of the ideals of integrity, the students of the University of Texas
at San Antonio pledge:
As a UTSA Roadrunner I live with honor and


Shared responsibility
The University of Texas at San Antonio community shares the
responsibility and commitment to integrity and the ethical pursuit of
knowledge and adheres to the UTSA Honor Code.

Course Schedule*
*Subject to change and adaptation
August 24
August 26

August 29

August 31
September 2

September 5

September 7
September 9

Class Introduction / Lemonade Reactions

Beyonc as Conjure Woman: Reclaiming the Magic of
Black Lives (That) Matter by Janell Hobson
Getting in Line: Working Through Beyoncs Formation
by Red Clay Scholar
Our Religion and Superstition Was All Mixed Up: Conjure,
Christianity, and African American Supernatural Traditions
or Chapter One from Black Magic: Religion and the African
American Conjuring Tradition by Yvonne P. Chireau
(available as an e-book at the library)
MAMA DAY Read in 40-page increments
Black Secret Technology: Beyoncs Formation by
Nettrice Gaskins
Toni, Beyonc & Kendrick: The Art of Flight by Nettrice
Africa Was a Land a Magic Power Since de Beginnin a
History: Old World Sources of Conjuring Traditions or
Chapter Two from Black Magic: Religion and the African
(available as an e-book at the library)
American Conjuring Tradition by Yvonne P. Chireau
All the African Influences in Beyoncs Visual Album,
Lemonade, Explained by Cynthia Okoroafor
The Afro-Caribbean Connection in Beyoncs Lemonade
You Might Not Have Known About by Alex Alvarez
Followers of the Yoruba Faith Reflect on the Impact of
Beyoncs Lemonade by Amanda Alcantara

September 12
September 14
September 16

Chapter Three: Troubling the Water: Conjure and Christ

from Conjuring Moments in African American
Literature by Kameelah L. Martin *LONG*
Single, Saved, and Sexin: The Gospel of Getting Your
Freak On from The Crunk Feminist Collective
The Seeming Impossibility of Being Black, Loving God,
and Having Sex Podcast from The Establishment

September 19
September 21
September 23

September 26
September 28
September 30
October 3
October 5

October 7
October 10
October 12
October 14

October 17

October 19

Chapter Four: The Batty Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the

Black Female Body from Venus in the Dark by Janell
Essence Celebrates #BlackGirlMagic Class of 2016 on
February Cover by Essence
I Have A Problem with #BlackGirlMagic by Linda Chavers
Theres Nothing Wrong with Black Girl Magic by Ashley
Dr. Linda Chavers on #BlackGirlMagic and the Article that
Started a Firestorm by For Harriet
Chapter Five: Mirror, Mirror: Framing the Black Female
Body for Still and Motion Pictures from Venus in the Dark by
Janell Hobson
Discussion with Janell Hobson
*please bring two pre-written questions from your CC*
Chapter One: Thou Shall Not Suffer a Witch to Live:
Women and Spirit Work from Conjuring Moments in African
American Literature by Kameelah L. Martin *LONG*
READ: Beyoncs Lemonade is Black Woman Magic
by Omiseeke Natasha Tinsley
Discussion with Kameelah Martin
*please bring two pre-written questions from your CC*
SULA Read through 1921
Chapter Four: The Geography of Niceness: Morality,
Anxiety, and Black Girlhood from Crescent City Girls by
LaKisha Simmons
SULA Finish Part One
Discussion with LaKisah Simmons
*please bring two pre-written questions from your CC*
Chapter Two: Staging Black Female Desire: The Drama of
Race, Class, and Sexuality from Beyond the Black Lady:
Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by
Lisa B. Thompson
SULA - Read through 1939

October 21

October 24
October 26
October 28

Beyoncs Other women: Considering The Soul Muses of

Lemonade by Emily J. Lordi
Meet 9 WOC Behind Lemonade That Arent Beyonc by
Grace Shutti
Chapter 5: Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black
Masculinity from Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins
SULA Read to the End
Discussion with Regina N. Bradley
*please bring two pre-written questions from your CC*

Why Dont We Love These Hoes? Black Women, Popular
Culture, and the Contemporary Hoe Archetype. by Mahaliah
Ayana Little (Blackboard)
*Halloween Wear a Beyonc-themed costume for Extra Credit!*
November 2
through Fire
Class taught by Poet Vocab Sanderson
November 4
Discussion with Reverend Theresa Thames
*please bring two pre-written questions from your CC*
October 31

November 7
November 9
November 11
November 14
November 16
November 18

Chapter 3: Prisons for Our Bodies, Closets for Our Minds:

Racisim, Heterosexism, and Black Sexuality from Black
Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins
*In Class Viewing * NO! The Documentary
*In Class Viewing * NO! The Documentary
Chapter 6: Very Necessary: Redefining Black Gender
Ideology from Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins
Class taught by Poet Vocab Sanderson
Bittersweet Like Me: When the Lemonade Aint Made for
for Fat Black Women & Femmes by Ashleigh Shackleford
Pop Stars Like Beyonc Leading the Conversation about
Feminism: A Discussion Between Two Concerned Scholars
by Patricia Leavy and Donna Y. Ford
Beyonc is Fighting the Patriarchy through Pop Culture
by Tami Winfrey Harris

November 21
November 23
November 25


November 28
November 30
December 2


December 5
December 7

Beyonc and bell hooks


December 12

12:30 3:00 pm

*Daddy Lessons and the first week of Love Drought MAY be switched due to
speaker availability