Reading & Composition
This class will consider gestures in both their literal and figurative senses. We’ll think about physical gestures that come from the body, and we’ll think about what it means to “gesture towards” an idea, practice, or community. When do these literal and figurative senses overlap? How do gestures speak alongside words, at the limits of words, or even when words are not an option?
Taken together, “Feminist Gestures” will consider feminism as both practice and process. We’ll think about the ways that bodies might gesture towards new feminist practices. In the process, we’ll think critically not about feminism in the singular, but about feminisms in the plural. Our readings will be drawn from works by feminists and womxn, mostly from the Americas and Europe, mostly from the 20th century, with an emphasis on intersectionality. Throughout the semester, we’ll read nonfiction texts—like Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” and Sara Ahmed’s “Feminist Killjoys”— that explicitly put forth views on womxn and feminism. We’ll also read fictional texts that contain and represent more implicit feminist gestures. These will include poetry by Gabriela Mistral and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, short stories by Clarice Lispector and Carmen Maria Machado, and Nella Larsen’s novella Passing. Given the nature of gesture, we’ll work with texts that push at the limits of the written word, as well as other mediums: visual art, performance art, music, and dance.
Throughout the semester, we’ll develop our own takes on what “feminist gestures” means to each of us. Writing, like the feminisms we’ll be considering, is a process. This R1B course is designed to help you understand, engage, and build upon and your own writing process, in the context of a collaborative classroom community. The class will be writing-intensive, and we will discuss and practice a wide range of reading and compositional strategies and genres throughout the semester. These, and the related assignments, will build in scope. We’ll begin the semester with a personal narrative Introductory Text and develop literary interpretations through the Close Reading Text. We’ll present Creative Projects around midsemester and deepen our literary interpretations through two longer Analytical Essays. We’ll end by compiling Final Portfolios and reflecting on what’s come up over the course of the semester’s reading, writing, and discussions. This course is oriented towards helping you hone critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, applicable far beyond the disciplinary boundaries of Comparative Literature and the institutional boundaries of Cal.