1. Read The New York Times Magazine Article, “Why Black Panther Is a Defining Moment for Black America,Preview the document” and answer the following questions:
a) Wallace explains the importance of Wakanda as “a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.” Do you feel that, in a sense, Wakanda is the real “superhero” of this film? The power of T’Challa is not so much in his suit or the vibranium as it is in his community and his nation’s traditions. Do you agree with this idea? Discuss.
b) Wallace goes on to say, “Never mind that most of us had never been to Africa. The point was not verisimilitude or a precise accounting of Africa’s reality. It was the envisioning of a free self. Nina Simone once described freedom as the absence of fear, and as with all humans, the attempt of black Americans to picture a homeland, whether real or mythical, was an attempt to picture a place where there was no fear. This is why it doesn’t matter that Wakanda was an idea from a comic book, created by two Jewish artists. No one knows colonization better than the colonized, and black folks wasted no time in recolonizing Wakanda. No genocide or takeover of land was required. Wakanda is ours now. We do with it as we please.” How can the vision of Wakanda help black people deal with daily microaggressions and the inequities of our society?
2. Read the Time Magazine Article, “The Revolutionary Power of Black PantherPreview the document” and answer the following questions:
a) What does Jamil Smith feel is so important about Black Panther? Describe what he feels is its “revolutionary power.”
b) Smith makes the point that T’Challa and Killmonger are meant to show two sides of the same idea: “T’Challa and Killmonger are mirror images, separated only by the accident of where they were born. “What they don’t realize,” Boseman says, “is that the greatest conflict you will ever face will be the conflict with yourself.” What is the answer that the movie gives to these opposing ideas of how to combat worldwide Black oppression?
c) When Okoye tells Killmonger that he is “too full of hatred to be a real king,” is that the movie’s answer? Explain.
3. Read “How To Read Paintings: Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow” (Links to an external site.) and answer the following questions:
Thomas Cole was noted for painting a series of paintings called The Course of Empire, which showed a nation going from idyllic and uncivilized, to having an empire, to losing the empire, and nature reclaiming the ruins of that empire. The series reflected Cole’s anxiety over nineteenth-century American progress, a time when ecological destruction for development was unchecked and Andrew Jackson (Links to an external site.)‘s administration pushed westward expansion by forcibly removing indigenous people and approving slavery in the territories. Cole lamented (Links to an external site.): “It appears to me that the moral principle of the nation is much lower than formerly … The hope of the wise and the good will have perished and scenes of tyranny and wrong, blood and oppression such as have been acted since the world was created—will be again performed as long as man lasts.”
a) How do you read Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow? Is it a statement of hope in America’s future “conquest” of the West and the wild lands, or a warning that America should not destroy its environment? Explain.
b) How do you react to this painting? In your eyes, does it have something to say about the current administration’s removal of environmental laws and other restraints on factory and automobile emissions? Explain.
4. Read the selection from Samantha Irby’s book We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, Preview the documentand answer the following questions.
a) Samantha Irby is a well-known humorist. Do you believe that what she is saying in this essay is greatly exaggerated for the sake of humor, or a painfully realistic psychological portrait of people like her? Explain your answer.
b) What role do advertising and movies play in contributing to this kind of self-hatred in our culture?
c) What would you suggest are the steps that society can take to keep people from feeling like this?
5. Compare Irby’s autobiographical prose in We Are Never Meeting In Real Life to the self-hating mother in Lauren Groff’s short story The Midnight Zone, as expressed in the following passage:
Let’s pack, my husband said, but my rebelliousness at the time was like a sticky fog rolling through my body and never burning off, there was no sun inside, and so I said that the boys and I would stay. He looked at me as if I were crazy and asked how we’d manage with no car. I asked if he thought he’d married an incompetent woman, which cut to the bone, because the source of our problems was that, in fact, he had. For years at a time I was good only at the things that interested me, and since all that interested me was my work and my children, the rest of life had sort of inched away. And while it’s true that my children were endlessly fascinating, two petri dishes growing human cultures, being a mother never had been, and all that seemed assigned by default of gender I would not do because it felt insulting. I would not buy clothes, I would not make dinner, I would not keep schedules, I would not make playdates, never ever. Motherhood meant, for me, that I would take the boys on monthlong adventures to Europe, teach them to blast off rockets, to swim for glory. I taught them how to read, but they could make their own lunches. I would hug them as long as they wanted to be hugged, but that was just being human. My husband had to be the one to make up for the depths of my lack. It is exhausting, living in debt that increases every day but that you have no intention of repaying.
When we heard the car from afar at four in the afternoon, the boys jumped up. They burst out of the cabin, leaving the door wide open to the blazing light, which hurt my eyes. I heard their father’s voice, and then his footsteps, and he was running, and behind him the boys were running, the dog was running. Here were my husband’s feet on the dirt drive. Here were his feet heavy on the porch.
For a half-breath, I would have vanished myself. I was everything we had fretted about, this passive Queen of Chaos with her bloody duct-tape crown. My husband filled the door. He is a man born to fill doors. I shut my eyes. When I opened them, he was enormous above me. In his face was a thing that made me go quiet inside, made a long slow sizzle creep up my arms from the fingertips, because the thing I read in his face was the worst, it was fear, and it was vast, it was elemental, like the wind itself, like the cold sun I would soon feel on the silk of my pelt. ♦
a) Is there a difference between Irby’s self-hatred and that of Groff’s main character? Are both characters dangerous “panthers” to themselves? Explain your answer.
b) Why do you think that there is so much self-hatred expressed in the 21st century literature? Is this a time when most people feel like failures? What do you think is the cause of these feelings?
Link to “How To Read Paintings: Thomas Cole’s Oxbow”
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