English 166

Special Topics: Writing Poetry and Nonfiction, Writing as Social Practice

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2017 Giscombe, Cecil S.
TTh 5-6:30 174 Barrows Creative Writing Workshops
Creative Writing Lecture Courses
Special Topics

Other Readings and Media

See below.


One of the ideas behind this course offering is that poetry and essays (life-writing, creative non-fiction, “essaying,” etc.) have similar aims or field-marks—both are literary vehicles of exploration and documentation; both value experimental approaches; and both traffic with versions of the incomplete.

Another idea is that various wide particulars make up each of us—social class, race, gender, place of birth, etc.  These particulars endow us with privileges, deficits, blindnesses, insights, and the like.  Prompts in this course will encourage students to document these and explore how they qualify us (and how or if they obligate us) to “speak” from various positions.  The purpose of writing in this course is to engage public language on one hand and personal (meaning specific) observations and experiences on the other.  The purpose here is to pursue consciousness.  The experiment is to attempt to do so in the forms of poetry and the personal essay.

A third idea is that hybrid forms—works that defy a single categorization or order, works that join rather than exclude—are of great interest.

Some points of departure:

How Scared Should People on the Border Be?

(New York Times headline, 31 March 2017)


The situation is aggravated by the tremor that breaks into discourse on race.  It is further complicated by the fact that the habit of ignoring race is understood to be a graceful, even generous, liberal gesture.  To notice is to recognize an already discredited difference.

(Toni Morrison)


The sea cannot be fenced,/ el Mar does not stop at borders.

(Gloria Anzaldua)


Writing.  Reading.  Discussion.  Collaborative Projects.  Class field trips.  Performance.

Texts (tentative list): Borderlands/ La Frontera, by Gloria Anzaldua; The Lemonade album, by Beyonce; Marvelous Bones of Time, by Brenda Coultas; The Art of the Personal Essay, by Philip Lopate; American Born Chinese, by Glenn Wang; Cane, by Jean Toomer. Supplemental readings by Dorothy Allison, James Baldwin, CAConrad, Gish Jen, X. J. Kennedy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Claudia Rankine, others.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Gothic Duncan, Ian
166/2 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
166/4 Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class Giscombe, Cecil S.
166/5 Special Topics: Asian American Literature - World, Nation, Locality Leong, Andrew Way
166/6 Special Topics: Realism, Then and Now Cordes Selbin, Jesse
166/7 Special Topics: Anton Chekhov Muza, Anna
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
166/3 Special Topics: Journeys: British World-Building, c. 700-1700 Miller, Jasmin
166/4 Special Topics: "this morning's minion": Sonic Mysticism in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson Stancek, Claire Marie
166/5 Special Topics Le, Serena
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Comedy & Violence Flynn, Catherine
166/2 Special Topics: Romantic Science Goldstein, Amanda Jo
166/3 Special Topics: Classical & Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey
166/4 Special Topics: Marxism & Literature Lye, Colleen
166/5 Special Topics: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
166/6 Special Topics: Speculative Fiction Jones, Donna V.
Summer, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Speculative Fictions, Possible Futures O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
166/2 Special Topics: Games of Thrones, Medieval to Modern Strub, Spencer
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/3 Special Topics: Black Science Fiction Serpell, C. Namwali
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Lye, Colleen
166/2 Special Topics: Studies in Literature and Environment (Shelter and Weather) Francois, Anne-Lise
166/3 Special Topics: Slavery and Conspiracy Wagner, Bryan
166/4 Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film Goble, Mark
166/5 Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature Falci, Eric

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