A Dr. Lane Lesson Plan | Lemonade by Beyoncé
When Life Gives You Beyoncé, Teach with Lemonade
When Life Gives You Beyoncé, Teach with Lemonade
When I tell people that I teach courses such as “Black Popular Culture in D.C.” and “Beyoncé,” and other topical courses in race, gender, sexuality, class, spatial politics, and language using popular culture, they always ask me for syllabi or reading lists I’ve developed for those classes. I’ll do you one better. Below, you’ll find a specially designed lesson plan that you can use in your class.
Also check out the:
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
If you’re teaching undergrads, I’d choose 2 popular posts, 1 Applied Reading (application of an important theory or concept), and 1 Theory Reading. Assume they’ll only skim the Theory Reading and be prepared to walk them through any intricacies therein.
If you’re teaching high school kids, give them 2 of the shorter popular post and tell them to try their hand at 1 Applied Reading (but you should be walk them through any main points of that reading anyway).
bell hooks, “Moving Beyond Pain” May 9, 2016
Lori Adelman, “A Black Feminist Roundtable on bell hooks, Beyonce, and ‘Moving Beyond Pain'” May 11, 2016
Melissa Harris-Perry, “A Call and Response with Melissa Harris-Perry: The Pain and the Power of ‘Lemonade'” April 26, 2016
Jia Tolentino, “I Tried On Everything in the Ivy Park Line and Felt Like a Cute, Stupid, Beyoncé-Themed Sausage Link” April 19, 2016
Aimée Lutkin, “Amber Rose Explains Consent, Short Skirts and Having Fun With Your Girls to a Stumped Tyrese” February 20, 2016
TVO “Terry Crews — Manhood, Feminism & The Mindset That Leads To Rape” December 29, 2014
@FancyCapitalist “11 References You Missed in Beyoncé’s Formation”
@caroleraphaelle “Beyoncé: This ‘vegan’ wears furs”
Shimizu, Celine Parreñas. The Hypersexuality of Race : Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene . Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
McRobbie, Angela. “Post‐Feminism and Popular Culture.” Feminist Media Studies 4.3 (2004): 255-64.
Rose, Tricia. The Hip Hop Wars : What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop–and Why It Matters . New York: BasicCivitas, 2008.
Hall, Stuart. “What Is This “Black” in Black Popular Culture?” Social Justice 20.1/2 (51-52) (1993): 104-14.
Nash, Jennifer C. “Strange Bedfellows.” Social Text 26.4 97 (2008): 51-76.
Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminest Breaks It Down. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Miller-Young, Mireille. “Putting Hypersexuality to Work: Black Women and Illicit Eroticism in Pornography.” Sexualities 13.2 (2010): 219-35.
hooks, bell. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics . Taylor & Francis, 2014.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism . New York & London: Routledge, 2004.
Hammonds, Evelynn. “Black (W)Holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6.2/3 (1994): 126-45.
Collins, Patricia Hill. “Gender, Black Feminism, and Black Political Economy.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 568 (2000): 41-53.
Harris, Laura Alexandra. “Queer Black Feminism: The Pleasure Principle.” Feminist Review 54 (1996): 3-30.
Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism 1968-1996.” Dissertation. Duke University, 2010.
Keyes, Cheryl L. “Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces: Black Female Identity Via Rap Music Performance.” The Journal of American Folklore 113.449 (2000): 255-69.
Gaunt, Kyra D. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop . New York University Press, 2006.
Brown, Jayna. “Hip Hop, Pleasure, and Its Fulfillment.” Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International 2.2 (2013): 147-50.
Perry, Imani. “It’s My Thang and I’ll Swing It the Way I Feel! Sexuality and Black Women Rappers.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Eds. Dines, Gail and Jean McMahon Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1995. 524-30. Print.
Johnson, E. Patrick. Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003.
Sullivan, Mecca Jamilah. “Fat Mutha: Hip Hop’s Queer Corpulent Poetics.” Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International 2.2 (2013): 200-13. Print.
Holland, Sharon Patricia. The Erotic Life of Racism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. Print.
Musser, Amber Jamilla. Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism . New York & London: NYU Press, 2014. Print.
Goodall, Nataki H. “Depend on Myself: T. L. C. And the Evolution of Black Female Rap.” The Journal of Negro History 79.1 (1994): 85-93. Print.
Below are three examples of activities I might use (and have used in different lessons) to engage students in a discussion about Bey’s Lemonade.
Pick one if you have 75 minutes or two of you have longer and let students guide the rest of the conversation; in fact try to talk as little as possible.
15 min Lecture (Not a minute more. Use a timer.) + 5 minute silent reflection followed by guided discussion.
In this lecture, pose a question of interest to you that arises from watching the “visual album” Lemonade. It must be a question. You must tell/show students that question before you start and you must stay on task–lay out the question and give it context. You are demonstrating what critical inquiry looks like. How you ask questions of the things that don’t have easy answers or simple, yes or no responses. I strongly suggest you write this lecture out-4.5-5 pages double-spaced. Yes. Read it. You want this lecture to be free of “ums” and “uhs” and “likes.” They need to hear you speak academically and confidently, they need to hear what good questions sound like. Extra points if you challenge Bey’s point of view. At the end, restate the question. Ask the students to pull out a piece of paper. Give the students 4-5 minutes to reflect and respond to the question you pose on their own. Play a Beyonce track on low as they write. Use their reflections as your “entre” point into a discussion.
Possible topics that might generate questions
Note: This is very easily “Flipped.” You could record and post a 15 minute lecture to your learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, etc), ask students to write a 1 page response and bring it to class.
Guided critical reading of Formation video.
Before you screen the Formation video, describe the elements of a cultural analysis which usually speak to issues of genre, context, structure/form, discursive features, ideology, and issues of representation. Then what you’ll do is guide them through a reading of Formation by posing questions and letting the class debate/discuss the answers. Alternatively, you could ask the questions and give everyone 60 seconds to write down what their answers are and then share.
Here’s the set of questions I like to use to help guide students in their readings of cultural texts. These questions are borrowed and adapted from an assignment sheet posted online by Adian Ivakhib of the University of Vermont:
Ideology and power:
Representation of cultural and other differences: How are the following represented:
For high-school students, I would simplify this even more, by asking specific questions that ask them the same things but in a much easier frame. But be sure not to baby them. They often will come up with some really interesting insights if you let them. So when asking about context ask them something like, “Why do you think Beyoncé’s video is filmed in New Orleans?”
Semi-structured debate about whether Bey is or ain’t feminist.
Note: Best suited for a Women’s/Gender Studies, Feminist Studies classroom–students need to be familiar with basic tenants of feminist thought.
For this exercise, you will need to curate 10 different PPT slides that will include portions of lyrics/images/video clips from the Bey canon. To prepare, your students should come having read or engaged with theory pieces that deal with feminism (e.g. hooks, Nash, Collins). They should have some notes that relate these texts to Bey.
Up the stakes: The side with the most points will have proven that Beyoncé is or ain’t a feminist! And the matter must be settled for all time (or at least for the remainder of the semester). So anytime she is mentioned, it must be in the context of her being or not being a feminist.
Leave at least 10 minutes at the end for discussion. You should land on something like:
While it is very difficult to pin down a specific, all-encompassing version of feminism, “pop feminism” lacks teeth–often calling for “equal rights for men and women”–but lacking any discussion of systemic dissolution of patriarchy, or racial, sexual, or class hierarchies.
I hope you’ll use this lesson in your classroom. For maximum efficacy, choose readings and structure the in-class activity in a way that will allow you to achieve at least two of the lesson objectives. If you use this plan, drop me a line and tell me how it went. If it was a disaster or students loved it, I want to hear about it.