Testify: The Politics of Imagination, Fantasy, and Magic
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York ONLINE
June 21 – August 1, 2020
Faculty: Jasmine Jay and Cristina Correa, Cornell University
Factotum: Sabina Jones, Columbia University and Amelia Samuelu, Cornell University
Upon hearing the word “testify,” what leaps to mind? Perhaps you see a witness in a court of law swearing the truth onto a Bible, or hear a pastor and gospel choir laying out the soundtrack of “testifyin” in an African American church. Rooted in these denotations is the act of stating fact and bearing witness, or speaking the truth we see into reality. In this course, we will consider how some versions of the truth allow people who have been made marginal to imagine and create alternative, centralized realities. We will consider how fantastical thinking can offer us new ways of seeing—or testifying to—realities that we want to realize, as well as those we cannot escape.
Our analysis will be anchored in tracing the meaning of testimony through the texts, images, and sounds of Black feminism, Afro-futurism, religious and magical traditions, horror and fantasy, testimonio literature, eco- and confessional poetics, among other mediums of thought. Through these imaginative wellsprings, we will get curious about our relationship to Blackness as something both brought into existence by bearing witness, and something that can be revolutionized by bearing witness.
Assignments will center on the magical possibilities of testimonies that prioritize underrepresented subjects while offering a practice in the incantatory and world-building capacities of writing. Specifically, we will take walks in nature as a form of meditative thinking, close read tweets and music videos, write a film adaptation, and read our own poetry in public as a way of putting testimony into practice. All events and practices will culminate in a performative and group-imagined capstone project.