English 165

Special Topics: Longing and Belonging in Contemporary Writing

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2015 Langan, Celeste
MW 3-4:30 305 Wheeler

Book List

Berry, Wendell: Jayber Crow; Berry, Wendell: The Art of the Common Place; Coetzee, J. M.: Disgrace; Cole, Teju: Open City; Hiraide, Takashi: The Guest Cat; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen; Rankine, Claudia: Don't Let Me Be Lonely; Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping; Robinson, Marilynne: Lila; Sebald, W. G.: Vertigo; Spahr, Juliana: The Transformation; Yamashita, Karen: I Hotel


This course will interrogate the possible relationships between desire and social position or identity (what I conceive myself to have and to lack) by reading contemporary literature in which longing for (love, sex, wealth, economic or political security) seems in tension with or premised on modes of belonging to (family, property, culture, community, nation, earth, global capitalism).  Beginning with Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and Citizen, we will ask what it means to (want to) belong (to another), and whether or where writing, as an act of address, is a form of self-possession or self-dispossession. We will read novelists, essayists, and poets for whom place or proximity (neighborhood) is crucial to belonging (Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson) as well as those who explore transient, exilic, or indebted modes of longing (Juliana Spahr, Mohsin Hamid, Teju Cole).  My aim is to use longing and belonging to think about how these texts do or do not belong to “the contemporary”; to that end, readings have been selected for range and variety.  We will read “regional” U.S. writing as well as “global Anglophone” writing (and one text translated from Japanese); poetry, prose fiction, and essays on environmental ethics. The class will be conducted as a seminar; students will write two short essays and one final 10-page essay.


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