About

Syllabus: Experimental Poets of Color Spring 2018

LITR 1231C: ­Experimental Poets of Color
http://www.experimentalpoetsofcolor.wordpress.com
#expoetsofcolor

Erica Mena
Office Hours: Thursday 4-5 or by appointment.
Text is my preferred communication method

Summary

In this course we’ll read and critically engage with contemporary experimental poets of color writing in English in the US and Canada. Exploring the intersection of poetics, aesthetics, critical race (and mixed race) theory, and social justice activism in the arts, we will question the modernist and post-modernist assumptions that experimentation and innovation are exclusively the domain of whiteness. We will explore how racism, colonialism, and other contemporary systems of oppression condition responses to poets of color, and consider how poets of color respond to and engage with these systems both overtly and through their aesthetic experimentation.

Over 14 weeks, students will spend 3 hours per week in class (42 hours). Required reading for the meetings is expected to take up approximately 7 hours per week (98 hours). In addition, writing weekly responses, keeping a reading journal, and researching and writing the final paper are expected to take a total of 40 hours over the course of the term.

Learning goals for this course include a command of critical race theory as it applies to conversations regarding race and racism in US institutions, and a command of experimental poetics in contemporary American English (US and Canadian) poetry.

Grade Breakdown:
Reading Responses (10):           30%
Reading Journal:                        30%
Final Paper(s):                            30%
Participation:                             10%

Assignments

Reading Responses (30%)

Each week you will be expected to post to the blog one reading response and one substantive comment on one of your peers’ posts. Reading response posts must be made for the week by Sunday at 12pm. Comments on that week’s reading response posts must be made by Monday at 7PM.

These should be short (500-1000 words), critical or critical-creative responses to one of the week’s texts. They can be arguments, close readings, poetic responses, or review-style treatments. I encourage you to try many different styles of responses over the semester. Whichever style you choose, all responses should reflect college-level standards of writing (proper grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.). Any departures from academic standards must be intentional and part of the rhetorical strategy. These must be posted to the course website by 12 pm on Sunday.

Reading Journal (30%)

You will create over the course of a class your own collage response multimedia / multi-input reading journal. Start with a brand-new notebook, or a dedicated digital space (a Word document, for example, or a Tumblr, or a hashtag being collected in Storify, or just a file folder). Throughout our semester, collect quotes, images, music, video, that you like. These do not have to be just from our class texts – pull from anything that crosses your mind during the course of our class. Make sure to record citations (including URLs for any web-based sources). Consider tagging entries with keywords for cross-referencing. Due on the last day of class; physical journals will be returned.

Paper (30%)

This paper will combine elements of close reading and theoretical scholarship of poetry. You will be expected to read a poetic work of your choosing closely and with great attention. Your reading should be informed by a theoretical framework related to our course (post-colonial theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, gender studies, disability theory, etc.). You will be expected to consider formal and linguistic elements as well as poetics and theory. You may chose to write about work by a poet on the syllabus (though not a book we have read for class), or another poet of your selection with my approval. One 10-15 page paper on one book, with bibliography OR 2 6-8 page papers on one book each, with bibliographies.

Attendance & Participation (10%)

This is a seminar, so you being here is the most important part of participation. More than two absences will result in NC. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absence. You must participate thoughtfully in class discussions.

Electronic device policy

If I see you texting, browsing the internet, on Facebook, or tweeting not-for-class, I’ll quietly note it, and if it happens frequently I will consider it to be an absence.

Non-Discrimination

Our class will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, ability, sex, gender identity, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. Anyone who does engage in any of these forms of discrimination will be asked to leave the class.

Freedom of Expression

We’re going to be engaged in some difficult conversations in this course. What I expect is that all students will engage in discussion and assignments from a place of respect and kindness. We will provide content warnings when dealing with potentially triggering materials such as violence and especially sexual violence. Hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated, even if the intent is to parody/satirize/mock those kinds of attitudes.

Accommodations

If you feel you will need accommodations in order to complete course requirements, please write to me, or make plans to meet with me.

Syllabus subject to change by instructor.

 

Required Books – Available for purchase at Ada Books on Westminster St.

What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America ed. Aldon Nielson

Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing ed. Carmen Gimenez-Smith

Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2014).

The Racial Imaginary ed. Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, Max King Cap

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Phillip

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

Corpse Whale by dg nanouk okpik

Assignments:

Reading Responses:

Each week you will be expected to post to the blog one reading response and one substantive comment on one of your peers’ posts. Reading response posts must be made for the week by Sunday at noon. Comments on that week’s reading response posts must be made by Monday at 7PM.

These should be short (500-1000 words), critical or critical-creative responses to one of the week’s texts. They can be arguments, close readings, creative responses, or review-style treatments. I encourage you to try many different styles of responses over the semester. Whichever style you choose, all responses should reflect college-level standards of writing (proper grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.). Any departures from academic standards must be intentional and part of the rhetorical strategy.

You have several options for constructing your responses.

  • “Traditional” reading responses, like you might write for a standard literature course, directly engage with the reading, offering critical responses, inquiry, questions, and thoughts related to the reading. These are not research papers. They are generally 300-500 words, and can be longer (but not shorter). These follow “traditional” academic guidelines (i.e. citing sources according to MLA citation rules, indicating quotation using quotation marks, standardized academic grammar and spelling, etc.).
  • Creative or generative responses. If you feel so inclined, you can create a creative response to a text. You could, for example, create a collage, a graphic narrative sequence, write a poem, make a playlist, an animation, etc. If you do, you must also briefly write about your concept.
  • New-media/syncretic reading response. You can, if you like, create a reading response that fully takes advantage of the blog medium, mixing critical response of a more traditional way, with embedded media as sources to build a constellation of critical thinking about a particular issue.

Reading Journal

Really, the only way to read experimental work is to just read it. There are kinds of questions we might ask as readers in response to the work, but ultimately reading experimental/difficult/innovative/avant-garde work requires an amount of trust (though not uncritical) in the work to teach you how to read it. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. That’s one of the reasons we’re reading SO MUCH poetry in this class.

However, I think there are some ways to approach reading as an active, critical, engaged reader that are helpful. I keep a reading journal, and for this class you will too.

You will create over the course of a class your own collage response multimedia / multi-input reading journal. Start with a brand-new notebook, or a dedicated digital document (a Word document, for example, or a Tumblr, or a file folder). Throughout our semester, collect quotes, images, music, video, that you like. These do not have to be just from our class texts – pull from anything that crosses your mind during the course of our class. Make sure to record citations (including URLs for any web-based sources). Consider tagging entries with keywords for cross-referencing.

Additionally, based on a chapter from Bernstein’s book Attack of the Difficult Poems keep record of yours (and others’) responses to the class readings:

“Third, I ask students to keep an intensive journal of their responses to the readings. I emphasize that these journals are to be, as far as possible, integrated with the flow of everyday life. Often students include the comments of their roommates or the responses of their friends. At Penn, reading a poem out loud or playing a sound file is bound to seem odd and provoke quizzical responses; these too become part of the journal. I ask the students to consider a specific set of questions and instructions:

What do you think of the poem? Give as much detail as you can as to why you feel the way you do. What does the poem sound like, what does it remind you of? Quote specific lines that seem relevant. Being specific is the hardest part of this assignment and I almost always request descriptions of the form and style of the different poems: which can be as simple as a description of the visual shape of the poem, its length, the type of lines (long, short, metrical, enjambed), the sort of style or rhetoric or vocabulary (unusual, common, pastoral, urban, urbane, fast-paced, slow-moving, pictorial, bombastic, introspective, descriptive, narrative, fragmentary, etc.).

The point is not for you to analyze or explain the poem but rather to try to react to it. Cataloging the features of a poem won’t explain it but it may enable you to enter the poem more fully.

Of the poems read for this week, which is your favorite? Why? Which is the best. Why? Are favorite and best the same? Rank the poems in your order of preference.

Of the poems read for this week, which did you like the least? Why?

Of the poems read for this week, which is the worst. Why? What are your criterea for deciding the quality of poem. Can poems that you don’t like or understand still be good poems?

If you have heard the audio performance, describe the performance and how it extends or contradicts the written version of the poem.”

Due on the last day of class; physical journals will be returned.

Final Paper

This paper will combine elements of close reading and theoretical scholarship of poetry. You will be expected to read a poetic work of your choosing closely and with great attention. Your reading should be informed by a theoretical framework related to our course (post-colonial theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, gender studies, disability theory, etc.). You will be expected to consider formal and linguistic elements as well as poetics and theory. You may chose to write about work by a poet on the syllabus (though not a book we have read for class), or another poet of your selection with my approval. One 10-15 page paper on one book, with bibliography OR 2 6-8 page papers on one book each, with bibliographies.

 DUE MAY 18, 2018
ABSTRACT DUE APRIL 24, 2018

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