Student Summer Research, 2013 Awards

Marquis Bey '14
“History of Black Identity Construction and Its Implications in the Contemporary Short Story”

This scholarly and experiential research project will explore the history of the African American lineage from a variety of perspectives including race, gender, sexuality, etc. It will examine how essentialism in relation to “black identity” has evolved throughout the decades. It will involve participation in writing workshops and conferences to develop the craft of fiction writing, permitting a creative and thereby more critical lens through which to analyze group identity and essentialism. Writing, and writing creatively, will permit the interrogation of dense questions such as “What does it mean to be Black?”, “Is there an essential difference between whites and blacks—a particular quality endemic to all blacks that is different from all whites?”, or “Is the use of black nationalism and phrases like ‘we’ and ‘our people’ merely a unifying ploy to organize a race?” To participate in the Skidmore workshops at the New York State Summer Writers Institute, which will be facilitated by people like Adam Braver, author of Mr. Lincoln’s Wars, a novel told from thirteen different perspectives to illuminate Abraham Lincoln's inner life, would comport well with the scholarly project because both Braver’s novel and the creation of my project examine perspectives of a particular topic and how things change based on perspective. Braver’s guidance in a creative workshop will help clarify the critical thoughts I seek to illustrate creatively, giving me a better understanding of my research. Participating in the New York State Summer Writers Institute will allow me to hone the craft of fiction writing which will then further permit clarity in the exploration of black identity and interrogation of the notion of essentialism. The creation of a short story (approx. 6000-8000 words) will creatively illustrate my interpretation of the evolution of the black identity, how contemporary writers convey the notion of black identity, what the black identity means to African Americans today, and how all constructions of identity contribute to societal understanding and outcomes. It will be imperative to research critical/theoretical works on black identity in literature (reading list will be comprised of roughly 10-12 works of prose and numerous critical essays) and to develop the foundational principles necessary to complete a short story worthy of publication. This project has spawned from readings from English classes such as African American Literature, Literature by Women, and Key Authors: Toni Morrison, but also from self-exploration and critical scrutiny of nationalistically characterized epochs and will ultimately aid in my educational pursuit to obtain a Ph.D. in African American literature.

Location: Scholarly research will be conducted on and from LVC’s campus, and participation in the New York State Summer workshops (two week [July 1-12] intermediate fiction program) will require travel to Skidmore College (headlined by Adam Braver and Elizabeth Benedict). Ideally, it will be preceded by participation in the full day (May 17-19, 8a-5p) intensive workshop covering 21st century fiction writing