Jessyka Finley

Assistant Professor of American Studies

 work(802) 443-5466
 Spring 2018: Monday 2:00-4:00, Wednesday 10:00-11:00 or by appointment
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 244

J Finley teaches courses focusing on black expressive practices, identity, feminism, and popular culture. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College and her M.A. and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her current research looks at the history of black women's humor, particularly how stand-up comedy has come to be a site where black women challenge and expand traditional narratives of resistance, redress, and feminist politics.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

AMST 0107 - Intro African American Culture      

Introduction to African American Culture
In this introductory survey we will focus on the study of African American culture in the United States, exploring various aspects of cultural production such as literature, music, visual arts, film, and performance. The guiding questions of the course are: what role has black culture played in shaping and responding to broader paradigms in American culture? How is lived experience implicated in the production of black culture? How have cultural products helped define, call into question, and celebrate “blackness?” Readings may include W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979), and Tricia Rose’s Black Noise (1994). 3 hrs. lect./disc. AMR NOR

Fall 2016, Spring 2018

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AMST 0204 / GSFS 0204 - Black Comic Cultures      

Black Comic Cultures
In this course we will explore a range of black comic cultures, analyzing their emergence and transformation from the early 20th century to the present. Specifically, we will examine blackface minstrels of the early 20th century such as George Walker and Bert Williams, Bill Cosby’s performances in the 60s, and the ribald humor of LaWanda Page’s 1970s party records, before moving to the urban scene embodied in television shows such as Def Comedy Jam. We will also engage with theoretical materials that help us analyze black comedy as multidimensional, such as John Limon’s Stand-up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America. (Critical Race Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect. AMR NOR SOC

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2017

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AMST 0208 / GSFS 0208 - Black Womanhood/Pop. Culture      

Unruly Bodies: Black Womanhood in Popular Culture
In this course we will examine representations of black womanhood in popular culture, analyzing the processes by which bodies and identities are constructed as dangerous, deviant, and unruly. For example, materials will include the work of bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins to analyze the imagery of black womanhood propagated by the television shows The Jerry Springer Show and Bad Girls Club. By contrast, we will also read Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection as a lens through which to view “bad” black womanhood as a radically stylized means of redress in the Blaxploitation-era film Foxy Brown. (Critical Race Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect. AMR CMP NOR

Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

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AMST 0345 - Black Lives Matter      

What political and cultural tactics have black people employed to expose, challenge, and undo state-sanctioned and extrajudicial racial violence against black bodies, and how have those tactics changed over time? In this course we will examine how the emergent #blacklivesmatter movement is distinct from, but in direct conversation with, the long history of movements committed to racial justice in America. We will discuss the discourse of #blacklivesmatter in popular media, and its incorporation of black feminist and queer resistance to social and material structures of power. Interdisciplinary texts may include Marc Lamont Hill’s Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond (2016), Dorothy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body (1998), and Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s classic Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (1892). 3 hr. lect. AMR HIS NOR SOC

Spring 2017, Fall 2017

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AMST 0348 / SOAN 0348 - Black Ethnography      

Writing Black Worlds: Race and the Practice of Ethnography
How do we translate the lived experience of “being black in America” into a text? What does it mean, as Catherine Cole has described, to make “ethno” into “graphic”? In this seminar we will investigate the relationships among race, gender, and ethnographic writing. We will engage in ethnographic research techniques including interviews, performance observation, oral history, and participant-observation. Text may include all or portions of W.E.B. DuBois’s The Philadelphia Negro (1899), John L. Jackson, Jr.’s Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity (2005), and Nikki Jones’s Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-city Violence (2009). (Any 0100 level course in AMST or GSFS or SOAN) (Sociology) SOC

Spring 2016

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AMST 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
Select project advisor prior to registration.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

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AMST 0710 - Honors Thesis      

Honors Thesis
For students who have completed AMST 0705, and qualify to write two-credit interdisciplinary honors thesis. on some aspect of American culture. The thesis may be completed on a fall/winter schedule or a fall/spring schedule. (Select a thesis advisor prior to registration)

Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

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AMST 1019 - American Comedy      

American Comedy: Cultural and Ethnic Perspectives
In this course we will focus on how American comedy has shaped, and been shaped by, particular cultural and ethnic sensibilities. Beginning with the 1960s, we will analyze the developments and transformations in comic personae, techniques, and what can serve as comedic material. Students will have the opportunity to discuss comedy as a genre of entertainment and mode of discourse. Some of the guiding questions include: how has American comedy enabled or disrupted a sense of shared cultural sensibilities in particular historical moments? In what ways does ethnic humor facilitate conversations about conflicts and controversies in ways that bring about new understanding and solidarities, or lay bare societal fissures? How does comedy imbue the person holding the mic with the power to grapple with, and even transgress, social and political norms? AMR ART CW NOR SOC WTR

Winter 2018

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Program in American Studies

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753