First-year Literature Humanities students had a new reading assignment this summer: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric.
The 2014 work, a finalist for the National Book Award, is a meditation about race in America. It was selected for the Lit Hum syllabus in response to recent protests and conversations around racism and police violence, providing a framework for a year where questions of racial injustice will be front and center in the classroom.
“It is a vital work for our time, and a vital work for Lit Hum, as it explores through the medium of lyric poetry questions of citizenship and community in a polarized world,” said Joanna Stalnaker, the Paul Brooke Program Chair for Literature Humanities.
Citizen includes the use of visual art, slogans, commentary, quotations from artists and critics, film scripts and more. “I started working on Citizen as a way of talking about invisible racism — moments that you experience and that happen really fast,” Rankine told The New Yorker. “They go by at lightning speed, and you begin to distrust that they even happened, and yet you know that you feel bad somehow.”