Broadly conceived, this course will explore the relationship between writing and loss. Its more concentrated concern is with how writing manages to represent the unthinkable, the unsayable, and the unmournable. This course will study the representational systems and generic instabilities of works that emerge from the aftermath of various disasters and catastrophes. In particular, it will look at how these works engage various theoretical discourses about trauma and testimony, paying close attention to moments when alternative ways of remembering, experiencing, and recounting disasters are imagined and performed. Focusing mostly on texts in the postcolonial literary canon, this course will take students through fictional writing and theoretical sources in order to provide them with a better understanding of what it means “to write disaster” as well as to show them how this writing unfolds through the words of those who survive what they often cannot endure.
- To read and understand literary works that represent various traumatic events, from war, political upheaval, ethnic conflict to both man-made and natural disasters.
- To grasp basic theoretical of trauma as well as to use these explorations as critical frameworks for literary interpretation
- To develop literary analysis skills, critical reading, thinking, and writing skills, as well their oral presentation skills.
- To analyze the relationship between the experience of traumatic events and the development of certain literary genres as well as representational styles.
20% Class Participation: will be determined by reading quizzes, group journaling exercises, small-group and class discussions, and writing feedback groups. Since the class meets once a week for two hours, attendance is a must.
20% Close Reading Essay (theory): A 2-3-page (double-spaced) close reading of a theoretical text
20% Close Reading Essay (novel): A 5-6-page close reading of a novel (double-spaced) without secondary sources.
15% Presentation on Final Paper (in small groups): Students will deliver a 10-minute presentation on their final paper, one that clearly outlines the stakes of their project and demonstrates the student’s capacity to further an innovative interpretation of their chosen primary.
25% Final Paper: An 8-10-page lens essay paper (double-spaced) in which students will further an argument concerning a primary source of their choice by engaging at least one secondary source read during the course.
Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones
Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped
** excerpts of various critical, theoretical, and philosophical works will be made available on Moodle**