English R1B

Reading and Composition: Bodies in Motion: Refugee Experience and Contemporary Fiction

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
3 Summer 2019 Wyman-McCarthy, Timothy
MTuTh 12-2 211 Dwinelle C


"But there were unspoken conditions to our acceptance, and that was the secret we were meant to glean on our own: we had to be grateful," writes Dina Nayeri of her family's experience seeking asylum in the United States in "The Ungrateful Refugee" (The Guardian, 2017). Neither success nor failure are available narratives for the refugee—"You're not enough until you're too much. You're lazy until you're a greedy interloper"—only postures of gratitude. Against this representational straight-jacketing, Nayeri asks: "Is the life of the happy mediocrity a privilege reserved for those who never stray from home?" This course takes its cue from Nayeri's incisive critique to explore how the wide range of refugee experience is represented in contemporary fiction. You can expect to encounter writing by Mohsin Hamid, Samuel Selvon, Shaun Tan, Dave Eggers, Philippe Claudel, NoViolet Bulawayo, Lisa Ko, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Warson Shire, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, and W.H. Auden. In addition to works of fiction by these writers, we will engage historical, philosophical, and political writings by Hannah Arendt on the nation state, Giorgio Agamben on the refugee camp, Edward Said on exile, and Jacques Derrida on hospitality. Through these works, and moving across genres, geographies, and mediums, we will interrogate the terms of citizenship and belonging, suffering and spectacle, cultural difference and universalism; the distinction between the internally displaced, the migrant, and the exile; and the meanings of habitation, refuge, home, dwelling, place, and shelter. And we will ask: What narrative forms or mediums do displaced writers deploy to render their experience or appeal to hearts and minds? And if 'the refugee' tells the lie to the nation state's capacity to account for the world's people, what other forms of political and social organization does the refugee live, inspire, create, or warn against?

Over the course of the semester, formal written assignments and informal classroom exercises will work to target and improve skills of textual analysis, critical thought, argumentative writing, and research proficiency. We will develop strategies for analyzing and synthesizing complex arguments across disciplines, styles, and academic contexts, while constructing and supporting original argumentative claims through the use of research and properly cited textual evidence.

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