Our task in this class will be to explore what “Asian-American” means as a descriptor preceding the word “writer” or “writing.” One might even go further and say our task is to give meaning to the hyphen between “Asian” and “American.” How this writing became or becomes literature is another important question we will explore.
We will read works by prominent Chinese-American, Japanese-American, Indian-American, Pakistani-American, and perhaps other Asian-American writers. Our syllabus will also include writers whose Asian-American writing is not connected to their ethnic origins, and no should be surprised if we look at some Asian-American films. Students should come prepared to read deeply and widely, to write often, to participate fully in discussions.
Today it is impossible to imagine American literature without noting the contributions of African American writers such as Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, and Langston Hughes. The critical and popular success of black writers, however, was far from inevitable. In fact, the entire idea of “African American literature” was antithetical to the slave system into which many of the early black writers were born. Slaveholders and stringent laws denied literacy, and the nation did not recognize slaves as full human beings, let alone American citizens. Lacking formal political representation, the writers we will study from this period struggled to realize another form of representation through literature, setting a pattern that would continue to produce profound literary achievements well after slavery’s abolition. As this course travels from the nineteenth century to our contemporary era, we will explore a series of major books and texts that spoke out against imposed silences and challenged institutionalized practices of prejudice and exclusion. These writings attested to the generative, emancipatory power of literature even as they chronicled ongoing social and political struggles. Moving from abolition to Oprah, political pamphlets to Book-of-the-Month club selections, we will consider how the production and circulation of such texts among actual communities of readers gave a unique body of literature the power to shape national politics and create a foundation for black culture.
Students in this course will complete a series of short writing assignments (1-2 pages), two longer papers (5-7 pages), and a final exam. Readings will be drawn from a range of writers and genres, spanning from the era of slavery to the modern day, and as we move into the twentieth century in particular, we will explore a cluster of writers centered around Chicago (writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston
Hughes, and Richard Wright), as they consider the city’s racial and political landscape. Longer reading assignments will include such texts as Narrative of the Life (Frederick Douglass), Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs), The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. DuBois), A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry), and The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison). Shorter readings, poetry selections, and critical essays will either be provided through a course packet or via Blackboard.
Introduces you to the world of editing and publishing through reading, writing, discussion, and hands-on projects. The class begins with an overview of current publishing practices in America. You will then learn about literary journal and book publishing by studying the process and by learning from guest speakers who are active in the industry. Learn how to solicit, select, edit, proofread, and prepare material for publication. See how a book length manuscript goes through the publishing process from soliciting/selection to publication and marketing. You will also get hands on experience creating an online literary journal with your classmates.
As a seminar, we will discuss the parallels and the differences among 6 ancient creation narratives: the Japanese, Babylonian, Greek, Norse, Mayan, and the Bible. The parallels will reveal the deepest questions and answers of the human experience. The contrasts will show the differences which characterize various cultures. These be considered in the light of the Bible: what it shares with all humanity, and how it is unique.
Contrary to popular belief, women of the nineteenth century achieved widespread influence as professional authors, rivaling the popularity of other writers, including Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. Between 1840 and 1870, British and American women writers
published many bestsellers, proving that women’s fiction was capable of redefining literary conventions and creating new audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only were they literary pioneers who popularized new genres of fiction—including domestic realism, social problem novels, and sensational literature—but British and American women writers also corresponded with each other and referenced each other’s work within their texts. This phenomenon—the rise of the professional woman author and the transatlantic popularity of their texts—will form the springboard for our investigation of seven landmark bestsellers by American and British women writers. We will consider questions such as: how did fiction popularized by women writers intervene in literary and cultural debates during a period of tremendous social change? How did women negotiate their authority as popular authors both individually and in collaboration with each other? To what extent did literature by women work to resist cultural stereotypes,
intervene in cultural debates, and imagine new social roles? Finally, we will consider to what extent these popular texts exhibit a “transatlantic character” in their attempts to wrestle with “The Woman Question”—a nineteenth-century social debate about women’s identity and social roles.
Texts covered will include:
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall (1854), Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859),
Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848), Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Mary
Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1863), Louisa May Alcott’s Behind a Mask (1864)
Czeslaw Milosz wrote that “The purpose of poetry is to remind us / how hard it is to remain a single person, / for our house is open, there are no keys in the door, / and invisible guests come in and out at will.” What he meant was, in part, that when we read poetry we allow our imagination to be accessed by a stranger. Alternatively, we might say that the lyric poem, which holds time in abeyance to dramatize emotional experience in language, allows us to dip into an artist’s mind and read the world from their perspective. This course offers students the opportunity to engage in the comparative study of poets and poetics from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. We will consider how poets from various cultures respond to similar problems in language, how an individual poet might speak not only for their nation but for humanity at large, and how poetic language is crafted to carry a freight of emotion across time and space. We will also ask questions about the function of the lyric. What explains its unique longevity as a genre and its continued power for contemporary readers?
Poets covered will include:
Robert Lowell (USA), Elizabeth Bishop (USA), Sylvia Plath (USA), Philip Larkin (England), Margaret Atwood (Canada), Derek Walcott (St. Lucia), Pablo Neruda (Chile), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Anna Akhmatova (Russia), Osip Mandelstam (Russia), Eugenio Montale (Italy), Wislawa Szymborska (Poland), Czeslaw Milosz (Poland), Tomas Transtromer (Sweden), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Nazim Hikmet (Turkey), A.K. Ramanujan (India), Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Pakistan), Bei Dao (China), Duoduo (China).
In this course, we will read works that explore the varied ways that American writers and thinkers have considered and portrayed notions of charity and public service. At the same time, we will reflect upon our own experiences and ideas and consider how they reflect or diverge from broader cultural trends. We will also speak with leaders from area non-profits about the challenges facing our communities, the process of allocating limited resources to meet pressing needs, and the experience of leading a charitable organization in a competitive and difficult economic climate. These conversations will aid us as we make decisions as a class regarding how to distribute $10,000 to local agencies, a gift made possible by generous support from the Learning by Giving program. When the course is completed, we will have taken an intellectual journey from the American colonies to present-day Valparaiso, one in which we will hopefully learn as much about our own feelings concerning philanthropy as we do about the texts and ideas that we study.