How do we think gendered being at the beginning of the world? Across poet and writer Lucille Clifton’s work is both an engagement of this question and, as such, object lessons for how to theorize key terms of black/feminist criticism. Or, to say it another way, Clifton’s thinking is a study in thinking … Clifton’s thinking helps us explore what is mastery and what, more beautifully, is mystery.Kevin Quashie is Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in English. He teaches black cultural and literary studies and is a professor in the department of English. Primarily, he focuses on black feminism, queer studies, and aesthetics, especially poetics. He is the author or editor of four books, most recently The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (2012) and Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being (2021). Black Aliveness has been awarded two prizes: the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association (2022) and the Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism from the Poetry Foundation (2022). Currently, he is thinking about literary criticism as a form of estrangement and consolation or, said another way, he is thinking about the workings and potency of black sentences. Each year, the Pembroke Center hosts the Elizabeth Munves Sherman ’77, P’06, P’09 Lecture in Gender and Sexuality Studies, featuring a distinguished Brown faculty member. Lecturers work in a wide range of disciplines, and present research that considers the impact of gender and sexuality across fields.