This course investigates the historical relationship between humans and the natural world, examines environmental racism and injustice, and considers the human experience of the global climate crisis. Students explore their own place in nature through writing and discussion, ask big questions about their cultural, moral, and practical relationships to the natural world, and find ways to connect the course’s learning to action. Students are challenged to understand humans’ current relationship to nature—and the urgent climate crisis—by reading today’s environmental writers.
Hyphen: Asian-American Literature
Hyphenated identities—those of Chinese-, Japanese-, Korean-, Filipina/o-, Vietnamese-, and Indian- Americans—come together in this seminar, which explores the diverse voices of Asian-American literature. From classic to contemporary, the rich works in Asian-American literature help answer a few overarching questions: What makes Asian-American writing distinctive in terms of style, form, and theme? How do authors capture their heritage, with its ancient and modern histories, religious traditions, and family/social norms?
This seminar explores the signature aspects of Afrofuturism and magical realism (lo real maravilloso). Are they distinctive? What, if anything, do they share? Is the Caribbean the geographical and cultural center of these two genres? Are they exclusively born out of oppressive regimes? Do they seek to liberate or placate? With these questions in mind, readings include W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Comet” (arguably the first Afrofuturist work), Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has written some of the most deeply human, complex, and inspiring storytelling in American literature. This course considers her whole career, covering at least three of her novels and some of her shorter fiction and non-fiction work. Students track Morrison’s criticism of what she called “the master narrative” and the development of her philosophy of “rememory” to describe the Black American experience (and consequently the American experience) and map a path forward. Through a deep dive into her inspiring oeuvre, Morrison teaches not only how to read her books but a new way of reading literature itself.