Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2023 | Paper 7

Due Saturday, April 15, 5:00 p.m., to your conference leader

Target length: to be determined by conference leader

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. Analyze the role of the senses in “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade.” How does Nugent play with sensorial experience? When are each of the different senses evoked and how might they represent the larger ideas of the work?
  3. Choosing two theorists of racial uplift (Wells, Du Bois, Washington, Locke, Chesnutt, Garvey) to compare, analyze who or what they see as responsible for promoting racial uplift. How much falls to individuals? How much of it lies with social institutions? Who holds the most power in making social change? How does each work critique the ideas proposed by the other?
  5. Compare the perspective from which the story is narrated across two of the following works: “The Coming of John” (chapter 13 of The Souls of Black Folk), “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” “Sweat,” or Their Eyes Were Watching God. Questions you might want to consider: From whose perspective is the story narrated? How does that change the reader’s perspective in relation to the text? For whom does the story seem to be told? What are we allowed to see/know? What don’t we see/know?
  7. In “Wayward: A Short Entry on the Possible” (227-8), Saidiya Hartman defines “waywardness” as, among other things, “a practice of possibility,” a traffic “in occult visions of other worlds and dreams of a different kind of life,” and “an improvisation with the terms of social existence” (228). Through an exploration of “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” consider in what ways Richard Bruce Nugent’s practice as an artist qualifies as wayward in Hartman’s terms. What are the social and other possibilities he is opening up? What are the authorities he is challenging?
  9. In a reading of  Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, consider how non-normative sexualities and non-normative bodies relate to social and geographical orders. In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman examines how young Black women in the early twentieth century “struggled to create autonomous and beautiful lives, to escape the new forms of servitude awaiting them, and to live as if they were free” (xiii). To what extent could Janie's life in Their Eyes be considered such a “beautiful experiment”? What is the significance of Janie's story unfolding primarily in rural contexts, as opposed to the urban experience of the young women in Hartman's account?
  11. What functions does porch talk play in Hurston’s representations of Black community in Their Eyes Were Watching God? How is it gendered? You might want to consider the opening paragraphs of the novel in your response.
  13. Magali Carrera argued that casta paintings use clothing, occupation, posture, space, and social interactions to “locate” race “in the intersection of certain physical, economic, and social spaces of late colonial Mexico” (38). How do the portraits of Winold Reiss in Survey Graphic or the Migration Series of Jacob Lawrence locate race?
  15. In his lecture on FIRE!!, as a way of understanding the aesthetics of the magazine, Jay Dickson quoted a famous line from the academic aesthete, Walter Pater, that “To burn always with this hard gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life”  (“Conclusion” to 2nd edition of Studies in the History of the Renaissance). To what extent does Their Eyes Were Watching God endorse this ideology of living?
  17. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois argues that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” Through a close reading of 2-3 of DuBois’s data portraits explain how DuBois makes visible his argument about the color line. What information and patterns is each graphic intended to convey? Your reading should consider elements such as how DuBois uses the form of the graphic, color, gradient, and emphasis to present a persuasive argument about Black experience.
  19. Jacob Lawrence explicitly mentioned the impact of the social realism of both José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera on his own art. In fact, while Lawrence was painting the Migration Series he met Orozco, who was painting his six-part Dive Bomber and Tank series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Compare one panel of a work by either Rivera or Orozco with three well chosen panels from the Migration Series that share a common motif. What strategies do the artists share? Where do their visions or techniques diverge? You may want to consider how they imagine community as well as their artistic strategies. What is the significance of both the similarities and differences?
  21. In consultation with your instructor, write on a topic of your own devising or develop a research topic.