HUMS 022, Six Pretty Good Biographers

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm, F 1:00pm-4:00pm
Fall 2022

Course Description: 

This course focuses on the humanities through an intensive study of transatlantic biographers. We examine six roles biographers can play: the archivalist, the contemporary, the fictionalizer, the listener, the miniaturist, and the systematizer. Our readings range widely over cultures, places, and times: from Senegalese griots to the Lives of Mary Shelley; from Gertrude Stein’s “autobiographies” to the microbiographies of Jorge Luis Borges; from fragments by Walter Benjamin to Daphne Brooks’ liner notes on Beyoncé. We devote sustained attention to developing writing skills and introduce students to the special collections, art galleries, and rare books libraries of Yale. Friday sessions alternate between writing workshops and field trips to Yale collections. This course is part of the “Six Pretty Good Ideas” program.Led by:

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Professor Ernest Mitchell

Ernest Julius Mitchell is a scholar of the Black Renaissance; he studies the literary, religious, and theoretical aspects of modernist writing.

His first book (under contract with Yale University Press) is a biography of the left-wing Jamaican writer Claude McKay. He is also completing a centenary edition of Jean Toomer’s Cane (under contract with Norton Library). A third project is an academic monograph on the fictional and ethnographic works of Zora Neale Hurston, read through the lens of her novel Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939).

Beyond his projects in literary history, he also writes on aesthetics at the nexus of black diaspora thought and continental philosophy.