Seminar on Angela Davis

September 7, 2020 John Drabinski

I’m posting HERE a copy of my syllabus for a course on Angela Davis’ work.

The course follows a largely chronological path, beginning with her Autobiography and concluding with the speeches and essays included in Freedom is a Constant Struggle. I do begin the course with her essay “Lecture on Liberation” in order to set up a framework for interpreting not only essays and books, but also how and why her work develops as it does. The lecture makes it clear that dialectical engagement – negation, negotiation of life-death struggle, and confrontation – is a constant process. The example of Frederick Douglass is important for that reason alone: in Narrative, Douglass describes his defeat of Covey in physical struggle as the moment he became un-enslaved, free in some fundamental sense. This is crucial for thinking about liberation. But the fundaments of freedom are the basis of further struggle and confrontation and overcoming. The necessity of more dialectic. And so when Davis engages so many new sites at each turn in her work, it is not curiosity or interest alone, but rather the movement of dialect toward further elevation of liberation as theory, practice, and material accomplishment – struggle, in a word.

As well, I frame the course materials with her own critical assessments of the images of her and her time in two later essays on the afro as photographic icon and nationalism as a political movement and worldview.

This course is taught remotely under COVID-19 restrictions, so my evaluation is focused on short, regular writing on a course blog (blotted out for student privacy purposes) that will also, I hope, replicate discussion.