M/W/F 12:00-01:00 31 Evans Instructor: Erin Bennett
In this course, we will read works of fiction, nonfiction, and theory by contemporary voices who reflect on growing up in the United States in the 21st century.
Maybe that’s because when I was a kid
a white boy told me I was marginalized
and all I could think of was the edge
of a sheet of paper, how empty it is—
the abyss I was told never to write into.
-Clint Smith, “Queries of Unrest”
In this course, we will read works of fiction, nonfiction, and theory by contemporary voices who reflect on growing up in the United States in the 21st century. This course is organized by literary genre; we begin with essays and poetry and then move on to novels, memoirs, and film. We will examine these works through an intersectional lens. This means that we will consider race, class, gender, sexual identity, and past trauma simultaneously while reading and analyzing our texts in order to better understand how each aspect of a person’s identity adds nuance and complexity to a person’s life experience. In this course, we will read the voices that have typically been elided from mainstream and canonical American literature. As we read, watch, and listen we will ask ourselves, what does it mean to grow up in the United States today? How do these voices influence and alter our understanding of American literature, history, politics, society?
As this is a Reading and Composition course, one of our primary goals will be to build and to refine your ability to construct a cogent analytical argument about a literary text and to support your argument using textual evidence. You will write a total of 32 pages that will consist of various formal writing assignments throughout the semester. You will read 100-150 pages of literary and scholarly texts per week.
Baig, Minhal – Hala (film)
Coates, Ta-Nehisi – Between the World and Me
Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams – “Mapping the Margins”
Diaz, Junot – “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie”
Dick, Kirby – The Hunting Ground (film)
Jawort, Adrian L. – “Megapixels and Ringtones”
Laymon, Kiese – “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America”
Moore, Lorrie – A Gate at the Stairs
Nair, Mira – The Namesake (film)
Packer, ZZ – “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”
Rankine, Claudia – Citizen: An American Lyric
Rees, Dee – Pariah (film)
Torres, Justin – We the Animals
Valenti, Jessica – Sex Object: A Memoir
Vance, J.D. – Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Ward, Jesmyn – Salvage the Bones
A note on the material: In this course, we will explore sensitive topics that include sexual abuse, racial violence, drug addiction, and suicide. Reading and thinking in depth about these issues can be emotionally taxing and triggering for some. I include this warning not to discourage you from taking the course, but to make sure that you are as informed as possible about its content. This being said, I want to emphasize that it is perfectly reasonable and expected to have an emotional response to the texts that we will analyze. It is my intention that the classroom will serve as a safe space in which to acknowledge and to express these emotional responses, while simultaneously functioning as a site of academic rigor. To this effect, please consider that to be a contributing member of our class community entails showing the utmost respect for one another.
A note on self-care: If you find the material or the class discussion to be upsetting and would like extra support, please feel free to talk to me about additional self-care resources if you feel comfortable doing so. In addition, I encourage you to contact the Tang Center’s Counseling department. You can schedule an appointment by calling 510-642-9494 or by visiting their website: https://uhs.berkeley.edu/counseling/appointments. Here is the number for the PATH to Care Center, an anonymous resource on campus for survivors of sexual violence: 510-642-1988. Here is the rape crisis hotline for the Bay Area (the organization is called BAWAR: Bay Area Women Against Rape): 510-845-7273. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A more comprehensive list of mental health and social services resources is on bCourses under “Files”.