English R1A

Reading & Composition: Marginalia

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2015 Diaz, Rosalind
MWF 12-1 222 Wheeler

Book List

Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home; Butler, Octavia: Fledgling

Other Readings and Media

Beasts of the Southern Wild, dir. Benh Zeitlin, 2012; a course reader/bCourses readings including writings from: Gloria Anzaldua, Samuel R. Delany, Annie Dillard, bell hooks, José Muñoz, Eve Sedgwick, Evie Shockley, and others.


This course will begin with the request (and the requirement) that you read with pen in hand. But we'll quickly move from the idea of taking notes in the margins of material, printed pages to thinking of images, movies, TV shows, advertisements, and even social and political structures as "texts" which you will comment on, mark up, explain, and critique with the power of your pen (or your laptop). 

"Marginalia"—the notes and scribbles that we make in the margins of the printed page—is a term that sounds dismissive and belittling. After all, who would give serious attention to the penciled comments in the margins of a library book, or the graffiti that covers a sign in the hallway? My contention is that those notes, scribbles, annotations, and glosses have the power to transform the original text. Our collective project will rearrange the supposed priority of "center" over "margin," and affirm that we should pay a lot of attention to marginalia. We will consider the relationship of "center" to "periphery" in its broadest social and political senses, and we will make it our task to question, disrupt, and rearrange the implied hierarchy and order implied in this mapping.

This is an R1A course, and so we will do a lot of writing and a lot of revision, with the goal of developing your academic reading and writing skills. We will practice beginning with the roughest of rough drafts—an assortment of scribbles in the margins of a text—and using these jottings to craft an essay. Along the way, we will remember and consider the initial surprise, pleasure, skepticism, interest, insight, and other kinds of engagement with the text that prompted us to write in the margins in the first place. Our attention to marginalia will help us imagine how those who read our essays will, in turn, handle and respond to them.

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