Professor Hilary Barnes attended the Bilingualism in the Hispanic and Lusophone World conference at Florida State University, January 27-29 2017, where she co-presented a poster entitled “Kaqchikel in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala: Language maintenance or language shift?”
Professor Jon Hale wrote the article “The African American Roots of Betsy DeVos’s Education Platform” which was published in The Atlantic. The article looks at the long history of privatizing public schools in the African American community, which will only increase during the Trump presidency. The article discusses how black parents and educators have had to contend with privatization throughout American history out of necessity since the public has historically not invested in the education of African American students.
You can view the article here: theatlantic.com
“The sigh is a pathway to breath; it allows breathing. That’s just self-preservation. No one fabricates that. You sit down, you sigh. You stand up, you sigh. The sighing is a worrying exhale of an ache. You wouldn’t call it an illness; still it is not the iteration of a free being. What else to liken yourself to but an animal, the ruminant kind?”
–Claudia Rankine, Citizen
As I reflect back on the fall semester, which has already lost some of its sharpness in my memory, I find myself punctuating so many of my thoughts with deep sighs. I think back to the article I wrote about lynching in the American West and the public lecture I gave about James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates—those thoughts are punctuated with sighs of satisfaction tinged with exhaustion as much mental as physical. I also return to a few particularly heartening moments: the student who began a comment in class with the words, “well, as bell hooks would say…” followed by what bell hooks would say…the book club meeting when a student quite pointedly remarked that so much in her political theory class would have been clarified had they read the Charles Mills book we were discussing…the song a student wrote about weeks one through four of Introduction to African American Studies (and attached to a shy “if you have time…” email) with the Du Bois-Crabtree shoutout, “Crabtree says I may be double conscious.” But my thoughts settle the longest on a few heartwrenching moments I had in the classroom, and ruminating over those moments draws out the deepest of sighs, sighs that curl out of corners of my guts darkened by the shadows of too much to despair over in 2016. I think about all of the carefully prepared notes I penned on yellow legal pads that detailed which passages from which assigned reading I would use to shape discussions of texts with my students, and I start to count how many sets of notes I had to scrap or modify so we could collectively pause long enough to remember the lives of Terrence Crutcher, Tyre King, Keith Lamont Scott, Walter Scott, and others. Three, or was it four, or five?
In place of those discussions, we read poetry—Elizabeth Alexander’s “Smile,” Kamilah Aisha Moon’s “Perfect Form,” Langston Hughes’s “I, Too”—and studied paintings by Emma Amos and installations by Kara Walker, for, in my experience, art has a remarkable capacity to unlock what we otherwise can’t quite express. At its best, art leaves a residue on one’s consciousness and even on one’s face—a furrowed brow, a stunned look of realization, the awestruck expression that comes with a glimpse of the sublime, a devastating shudder, a mischievous smile—and that residue remains, clings to us most stubbornly, when the artist succeeds in illuminating something of human existence we may have seen before but not really understood. From years of writing about representations of lynching and, more recently, from reading Teju Cole’s “Death in a Browser Tab,” I knew better than to replay images of death for my students. I have no interest in joining ranks with CNN and feeding into the media’s sick fascination with turning violence against black bodies into a spectacle to be consumed on loop. Through art, through disentangling the difference between “obsequious” and “safe” as we did when we discussed Alexander’s “Smile,” the rawness of these deaths that touched too many of my students too close to home unleashed, for some, tears, for others, stories of sisters and brothers and cousins and friends whose experiences rhymed too closely with those of the deceased.
My students find few spaces on campus for these conversations, though I know such spaces exist, but I also know that having this discussion in a classroom during a class led by a professor—in place of, but also alongside, the material on the syllabus—mattered. The discussion provided recognition of these experiences, and although recognition remains important, recognition alone, especially if that recognition only occurs in small, marginal pockets of an institution, is insufficient. For, even though all of the students who take Introduction to African American Studies with me come away knowing how to distinguish between the “mere inclusion” of the African American experience and the transformation of master narratives (my everlasting gratitude to the inimitable Nathan Huggins for writing “The Deforming Mirror of Truth”), an institution can render courses and whole academic programs mere tokens when it fails to distinguish between the two. And the space in between is a space no sigh can breach.
The moment from the fall that I return to with the most frequency, however, is from three days after the election. The morning after, I didn’t know what to say to my students, but some wise words from a colleague at Brandeis, Chad Williams, provided the clarity I needed. Just before class started that Friday, I wrote a paraphrased version of his thoughts on the board: “We are on the verge of a Second Redemption. Beware of what you concede in the name of peace and reconciliation.” Placing the election in the broader context of the 150 years since the end of the Civil War, I retraced the political compromises and calls for (white) unity that led to Reconstruction’s demise, and I asked whether the rhetoric of the Confederate “Redeemers”—they were trying to “redeem” the Old South after emancipation and military defeat with terror and death—had a familiar ring in our times. Redemption slashed through that brief experiment in democracy, cutting the path that led directly to Jim Crow: lynching, disenfranchisement, segregation, chain gangs, the indignities of sidewalk etiquette and back doors, and the rest. All the rest.
After a long silence, a student asked, with an earnestness that both tore me up inside and made me feel the full weight of my limitations as a scholar, “What can we do?” The question came from a place so genuine that I faltered because I could hear in her voice the urgency with which she needed an answer. But how could I answer such a question when I had been struggling with the very same feelings of stunned confusion and something between grief and disgust for days? Not that I ever understand my role as a professor to be the source of “the answers”—I ask questions, challenge assumptions, draw connections between texts, shape discussions by fleshing out broader scholarly debates, clarify complex ideas, and help students hone arguments—but I found, as she and the rest of the class patiently waited for my reply and looked to me for clarity and guidance, that I was about to provide a disappointing answer. After a long pause, I looked up at her and told her, “That is a very difficult question to answer. I don’t know. I don’t know…except that we must fight.”
In the weeks since that class, I finished teaching my three courses, organized a teach-in on the United States post-election with some other faculty, and continued to work on my book manuscript, all of which, I hope, constitute a “fight” of a certain kind. But, for self-preservation, renewal, and, most importantly, inspiration, I have returned to art. I have immersed myself in beauty, in Claudia Rankine, James Baldwin, Yusef Komunyakaa, Toni Morrison, Paul Beatty, Billie Holiday, Akira Kurosawa, Kerry James Marshall, Teju Cole, Kara Walker, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tanizaki Junichiro, Jesmyn Ward, and Marlon James. Artists like these don’t provide an escape or simple answers. (Teju Cole says that “[his] goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think,” and I am inclined to agree with his approach in novels, in teaching, and in life.) Artists provide a reprieve, though often a perplexing one, and maybe, just maybe, through the worlds they create, we can see a way forward in our own.
During this too-brief pause in teaching misleadingly referred to as “break,” I look back, but I also look forward. In the spring semester, I am offering a course, “Remembering and Forgetting: Race, Violence, and Memory in American History,” and I wonder, in this brave new political world—the Memory Studies scholar in me can’t help but ask, how “new” is “new” anyway?—, will the present let me catch my breath long enough to save me from revising my syllabus every couple weeks to accommodate new stories of racially motivated violence? As I teach “Mass Incarceration and Its Roots,” will I have to scrap my carefully crafted notes again and again as the criminalization of blackness grows unabated? Probably. I have already given up writing the epilogue to my book on lynching and memory until the rest of the manuscript has been completed because fresh bodies keep piling up and contemporary representations of lynching return too frequently for me to write cogently. My responsibility as a professor, however, cannot wait for the next iteration of my courses. I have preempted these probable disruptions with Rankine, Komunyakaa, Morrison, Beatty, Basho, Kurosawa, Cole, Walker, Ward, and others already scattered throughout my syllabi, but if my notes must be scrapped—and if the past has anything to tell us, then some will be scrapped—I may let out more deep sighs to open up “a pathway to breath” as Rankine says. And then, with airways freed of bad air, I will again turn to artists to sustain me and to sustain my students too.
Professor Joseph Weyers’ study ““Medellín Cuenta con vos: The changing role of voseo in written communication” has been accepted for publication in the journal Comunicación of the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellín, Colombia.
LCWA is participating in the “Give to What You Love” campaign in February. It’s a digital month long fundraising campaign that will allow you to enhance student outcomes by making a gift to the area of LCWA that was most significant to you! We are inviting our alumni, students, faculty and friends to Give to What You Love.
Last year, CofC’s School of Business piloted the Give to What You Love campaign and raised over $38,000 from 189 donors that went to particular majors, centers, and various initiatives of the donors choosing within the School.
This year CofC has opened up the campaign for all schools and fundraising will take place throughout the month of love. LCWA has chosen to participate in this innovative campaign. The areas donors can choose to support include; LCWA Dean’s Excellence Fund, Jewish Studies Annual Fund, Italian Film Festival, Hispanic Studies Fund, African American Studies Program, Classics Fund, French Department, and the German and Russian Studies.
A fundraising page for LCWA will be set up shortly where donors can view the different areas and give to what they love. Access to the site will be posted on the blog and in various other media outlets. So keep a look out!
On November 15, 2016 it was with mixed emotions that Dean Tillis announced his departure from the College of Charleston. He has decided to take a deanship at the University of Houston beginning mid-February 2017. After meetings with chairs, directors, and faculty of programs in the LCWA on January 3, 2017 President McConnell and Brian McGee, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, announced that Dr. Timothy S. Johnson will become the Interim Dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs, effective February 1, 2017.
Dear campus community:
President McConnell and I are pleased to announce that Dr. Timothy S. Johnson will become the Interim Dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs, effective February 1, 2017.
Dr. Johnson currently serves as Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics, a position he has held since 2011. Prior to joining the College, Tim was a member of the faculty at Truman State University, Baylor University, and the University of Florida. He holds a doctoral degree in classical philology from the University of Illinois and also has studied at the University of Kentucky, the University of Pennsylvania, and Grace College (IN).
A specialist in Classical lyric poetry and Horatian studies, he has authored two books on the Roman lyricist Horace, along with many scholarly journal articles. Tim has been a member the editorial boards for the Classical Journal, the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and the Religious Studies Review.
Tim’s teaching career has covered a variety of courses, including the Greek and Latin languages, with a special focus on the relationship between literature and politics. He has frequently led study-abroad programs in Rome and southern Italy.
The selection of Dr. Johnson as Interim Dean follows a consultative process involving the associate deans, department chairs, program directors, and other faculty of the School. This conversation will also shape the process to be followed in selecting the School’s permanent dean. Dr. Johnson will serve as Interim Dean until the permanent dean is named.
Dr. Johnson will succeed Dean Antonio Tillis, who is leaving the College of Charleston to take a position at another institution. We thank Dean Tillis for his service to the College and wish him well in his future endeavors.
In taking this position, Dr. Johnson becomes the first classicist in over 40 years to serve as a dean at the College of Charleston. C. Hilburn Womble, Professor of Classical Studies, was Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College from 1970-1975.
Please join me in thanking Tim for taking on this important leadership role.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
College of Charleston
Dr Kameelah Martin will be joining us in Fall 2017 from Savannah State University where she has been teaching in the Department of English, Language, and Cultures since 2013. Dr Martin’s academic pedigree includes a BA in English (with a minor in Africana Studies) from Georgia Southern University, followed by an MA in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and a PhD in English from Florida State University, where her dissertation won the 2006-7 J. Russell Reaver Award for Outstanding Dissertation in American Literature or Folklore. Dr Martin’s work on the performance of African spirituality by women of color in visual media and literature has already resulted in two published monographs (Conjuring Moments in African American Literature: Women, Spirit Work, and Other Such Hoodoo [Palgrave, 2013], and Envisioning Black Feminist Voodoo Aesthetics: African Spirituality in American Cinema [Lexington, 2016]) and multiple articles. With family roots that she has traced back to Kingstree, SC, Dr Martin is currently engaged in research that combines genealogy with more standard academic analyses of literary history and cultural studies.
We are delighted to welcome Dr Kameelah Martin to the College of Charleston as our new permanent Director of African American Studies.
CLASSICS STUDENTS TO PRESENT RESEARCH
Congratulations to Sarah Cohen, Hannah Edwards, and Gwen Gibbons, who were chosen to present their research projects at the Undergraduate Classics Conference, sponsored by the Department of Classics at the University of Tennessee (Feb. 25, 2017).
Sarah Cohen: “The Late Roman Period Mosaics at Sepphoris & Defining the Jewish Figural Style”
Hannah Edwards: “Fortuna and Virtus in Bellum Catilinae”
Gwen Gibbons: “Martial in 140 Characters: Gender Commentary in the First-Century ‘Twitter’”