English 166

Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2019 Giscombe, Cecil S.
TTh 2-3:30 80 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

Texts (tentative list): Borderlands/ La Frontera, by Gloria Anzalduathe 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.


One of the ideas behind this course offering is that poetry and essays (life-writing, creative nonfiction, "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 and workshopping. Reading. Discussion. Collaborative projects. Class field trip. Performance.

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