On the Greyness of Blackness: In Search of a Post-Soul Aesthetic


Winter 2014 quarter

Taught by

American studies

(1) Queue up Danger Mouse’s magnificent mash-up, The Grey Album . (2) Traverse the rich critical and cultural landscape of Kevin Young’s The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness . (3) Enter the outrageous world of The White Boy Shuffle , whose author, Paul Beatty, was described by writer Jessica Hagedorn as “a nineties Richard Pryor peaking ecstatically on acid.” (4) Discover an aesthetic—variously called “new black,” “post-soul,” and “post-black”—shaped and powered by a group of contemporary African Americans scholars and artists who complicate, in both bold and nuanced fashion, definitions and discussions of this thing called “blackness.”   

Scholar Mark Anthony Neal employs the “post-soul” label to describe “the political, social, and cultural experiences of the African-American community since the end of the civil rights and Black Power movements.” On the front lines of capturing those experiences is a group of contemporary African American artists whose explorations of the race-identity nexus consistently eschew essentialist notions and, instead, embrace cultural hybridity, multivocality, intersectionality, and intertextuality . . . they insist on “the greyness of blackness.”  

This program is designed for students seeking advanced study of African American culture in general, and contemporary African American literature in particular. Our primary texts will be fiction: Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle , Danzy Senna’s Caucasia , Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist , Percival Everett’s Erasure , Jake Lamar’s The Last Integrationist , and Darius James’s Negrophobia , among others. Our supplemental texts will include essays, poetry, drama, film, and hip-hop music.

We will devote two weekly seminars (one facilitated by students) to close readings of written texts, and engage in equally close readings of film and music. In addition to short weekly writing assignments, there will be a major research paper (20–25 pages). Field trips will include museum visits, off-campus films, and music venues.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

history, literature, writing, and education

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$50 for museum entrance fees and movies


Date Revision
August 2nd, 2013 Chico Herbison is teaching Asian/American: Pop Culture Crosscurrents.
March 21st, 2013 New program added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Number not yet available.

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