New Assistant English Professor, Dr. Taylor Black and His Fall 2017 Courses

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Taylor Black is a native North Carolinian.  He was born in Durham and split his time growing up between Winston-Salem and the Triangle.  At 18, he left for New York, where he pursued a BA in Black Studies at Hunter College and later earned a Ph.D. in American Studies at Rutgers University.  He is very excited to be returning home and continuing his work as a member of the Duke community.  

He has published on twentieth century American literature, popular music, gender and sexuality studies, queer theory, ontology and theories of becoming and, above all, the subject and practices of style in Women’s Studies Quarterly, American QuarterlyDiscourse and the Journal of Popular Music Studies.  Black is the co-editor of the Spring 2016 issue of WSQ, "Survival," with Frances Bartkowski and Elena Glasberg.  
 

Quentin Crisp
Quentin Crisp

Black is currently at work on his book project, Time Out of Mind: Style and the Art of Becoming, which proposes style as a way to understand the ontology of identity and being.  Black first became interested in the subject and practices of style as he encountered the works of Quentin Crisp, who described style as "an idiom arising spontaneously out of the personality but deliberately maintained.”  His work takes up Crisp's rigorously perverse sense of style as a path into studying America and American literature as projects of the future and not of nostalgia.  Time Out of Mind considers Edgar Allan Poe, Flannery O'Connor, Quentin Crisp and Bob Dylan as exemplary stylists: untimely figures emerging out of the history of American culture who have, in their works, pushed the limits of authorship to imagine concepts and modes of being that seem to defy their own times and places and belong in a world-to-come.

English 373 | American Literature: Cold War and After
Wednesday and Friday 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

This course takes up American Literature from the recent past.  While the Cold War (1945-1991) will mark a periodic or temporal container for the work we will study, the themes and characteristics emerging out of the Cold War will, however, precede that official historical marker and will linger through the decades into our present.  The U.S. cultural sensibilities from this time period can be marked by a wide and paradoxical range of descriptors: bold, paranoid, triumphal, satiric, extreme, utopic, isolated, and displaced.  We will add to this list as we analyze our objects and invent new ways to read into these not quite old and never quite retired or obsolete subjects and texts.  In that same spirit, we will conceive of this historical event as still in process, as not yet resolved, at every turn, stopping to consider the ways our texts figure into present conceptualizations of the nation and world. 

Each of the authors of novels, poems, songs and memoirs included in the course have produced very particular, even iconoclastic pieces of American literature that, at the same time, seem to be representative of the times and places from which they emerge as well as strange in and of themselves. We will place these texts next to cultural paraphernalia (television commercials, political manifestos, game shows, stand up comedy etc.) in order to reckon with what we see on the page.

Expect to read authors such as Octavia Butler, Bob Dylan, Nikki Giovanni, Fran Lebowitz, Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal.  Participation will matter a great deal in the course and, in addition to that, students will be expected to complete three short (5-8 page) essays.

English 890S.05| Survival
Tuesday 4:40 p.m. - 7:10 p.m.

To survive is messy, elaborate, layered.  The metaphysics of deferral are implied by the word’s Latinate roots:
sur (over) vive (life).  Sur-vival, “to live beyond,” implies competition among the living, some who go on and some who, perforce, are survived.  Live, survive, preserve, and conserve all share the root vivre, which itself is preserved by its prefixal adaptability.  Linguistically, life survives.  Its animacy is not merely grammatical but neither is it a guarantee of human living.  To survive takes and creates risk, both philologically and materially.  If survival has just one affective mode, it might be defiance—the feat and fate of living beings after injury, trauma, war, captivity and natural disaster.  It would also be the survival of words, signals and germinal states of being in the world that we sometimes call natural, but that also encode the cultural landscape.  That which remains reminds us of that which lives on after in a state of belatedness that is survival: the afterlife of what was not supposed to remain, that which was to have died, but did not, after all. 

This seminar will treat survival quizzically.  Hardly a given, survival is often a mistake and, in any event, should certainly be treated as a mystery.  Week by week, we will look into and discuss a variety of primary materials with the question of survival on our minds.  To begin with, we will ask ourselves: what is the temporality of survival? How does survival work?  Our process of encounter and discovery with go from there, and our provisional responses to our set of analytical questions will emerge in our work with our texts and one another. 

This seminar will be interdisciplinary in nature and you can expect to work with texts from the worlds of 19th-20thC literature, music, film, new materialist criticism, object-oriented philosophy and extremist political manifestos.  Students will be expected to make one or two presentations over the course of the semester and complete one final project of 15-20 pages.  Participants will be welcome to tailor the course material to their individual fields of interest.