Graduate Research Colloquium: Melanie R. Hill (English) and Davis Knittle (English)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

3810 Walnut, 2nd Floor Conference Room

Please note: this location is not ADA accessible.

Left-Handed Sermons in a Right-Handed World: Black Women Preachers, Blues Bodies, and the Sound of the Sermon (Melanie R. Hill)

This paper is an interdisciplinary analysis of the presence of black women preachers using both sermon and song to counter hegemonic and intersectional structures of oppression.  Social injustices invade the preaching moment every Sunday in the pulpit, but the black woman preacher’s position of “holding the light” and bringing to justice those very things—the material and immaterial borders that attempt to denigrate communities of color---is specific to this paper. Here, I argue how the conversations and sermons of particular black women preachers speak to the politics of black and brown bodies. I also mark specific sermons from each woman in the pulpit whose preacherly moments provide and create active conversation and diligent strategy to show communities, the nation, and the world that the voice of the black woman preacher matters in moments of debilitating social injustices. 

Urban Obsolescence and Queer Time: James Schuyler’s Assembled New York (Davis Knittle)
This essay reads the built environments of urban renewal-era queer urbanism by adapting the observation practices of queer, disabled New York School poet James Schuyler’s first collection, Freely Espousing (1969). I contextualize Schuyler’s poems within the contemporaneous histories of urban renewal and queer life in New York in the 1950s and 1960s. In so doing, I set pre-Gay Liberation queer urbanism in dialogue with the large-scale transformation of urban renewal and its discourse of infrastructural or architectural obsolescence.
I then identify homologies between obsolescence and recursive and past-facing relationships to time and space important to queer temporality to read how the logic of obsolescence has been used to refuse queer and disabled bodies, as well as urban areas, access to the urban present. I situate these non-linear temporalities in the built environment, setting them in dialogue with analyses of Universal Design, and with disability theorist Alison Kafer’s political/relational model of disability and its material focus on queer spatiotemporalities.
I extend Kafer’s reading of interior spaces to the rapidly changing built environment of urban renewal-era Manhattan in which Schuyler wrote Freely Espousing. Schuyler’s poems, I argue, offer an “urban disability poetics” that resists the conflation of immersive experiences of the city with compulsory able-bodiedness. Extending from Schuyler’s attention to the built environment, I posit that a material reading of the city in dialogue with queer urbanism looks beyond the gay district to queer lives and communities in disinvested urban areas, and to the queer spatial dynamics of urban change.