New Fall 2020 Course Option: “The Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter”

Next week or the week after, at the latest, another course will appear on the fall schedule, something brand new and just designed by Dr. Donald Morales. A few weeks ago we knew we were going to need a sixth course due to increase in enrollment. We wanted to run something new, unique to Mercy, something that spoke to the times; and in response Dr. Morales came up with the following. I hope you will find it interesting, exciting even, and will consider enrolling in it (and remember, you can switch in/out of courses without issue or problem, as you like, until the start of the semester):

ENGL 560 The Literary Accretion of Black Lives Matter

“In the agony of his final moments, while crying out for his mama, water, and breath, George Floyd reached out to and became all of us. He has joined a vast community of people, across the globe, who see echoes of the injustices and the inequalities of their own societies in his American story and recognize their own torment in his suffering. Floyd’s seemingly unending death, in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately killed black, brown, and indigenous people, also underscores the fact that many of us are mourning and are uncertain about how long we ourselves will be able to breathe.”

–Edwidge Danticat, “So Brutal a Death,” New Yorker

“Black creativity emerges from long lines of innovative responses to the death and violence that plague our communities. ‘Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief,’ Toni Morrison wrote in Beloved, and I am interested in creative emergences from that ineluctable fact.

–Elizabeth Alexander, “The Trayvon Generation,” New Yorker

This new course explores the dynamics of the racial turmoil that has disrupted this nation in ways much like during the civil rights era of the sixties. The question arises: is this a momentary period of protest or a defining movement ushering in profound change? In this class, through mostly non-fiction, we will look through the prism of literature at the origin and continued life of systemic racism in America; at how artists have responded and creatively documented it. The course will also expand beyond America and view the global response to the spring+summer of 2020 through works and articles from international writers.

Students will encounter works such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “A Case for Reparations,” W. E. B. Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage, Caryl Phillips’ A Distant Shore or Nature of Blood, Teju Cole’s Open City, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, August Wilson’s King Hedley, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Oladipo Agbouuaje’s The Hounding of David Oluwale, and Debbie Tucker Green’s ear for eye or random. Other or different works might be studied as well. The course will be supplemented with audio, video, and other media arising out of the events of this period. 3 credits. Fulfills a Literature Group 2 requirement or works as an elective.

Note: you can take this course even if you’ve taken an earlier course coded as 560. Multiple topics courses cycle under the course codes of 560, 540, 515, and 514, and students can take as many different courses running by these codes as they like.

Fall 2020 Books Orders (Updated Throughout the Summer)

Book orders for each class will eventually appear in the college’s online bookstore, but I know that many graduate students check here instead of the bookstore for this information; and anyway the bookstore usually charges a premium for books, so it’s best to buy books elsewhere. I recommend Powell’s for new books, and Alibris for used books (and overall I recommend buying used books rather than new; you can secure a semester’s worth of books for relatively cheap if you look for used versions of them online). Below are the book orders for each of the fall classes (so far). Professors are still considering works and working on their courses, so consider this list a work in progress that will be updated throughout the summer as professors finalize their book orders.

  • ENGL 500: Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism

Books TBD

  • ENGL 510: Theory and Practice of Expository Writing

Books TBD

  • ENGL 522: Humanism in Renaissance Texts

Much of the semester’s readings will be Open Education Resources (available for free online). Other than that, students are required to secure one book for the class:

Kraye, Jill, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism. Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 0521436249.

  • ENGL 526: Modernism

Note that you can use other editions than these recommended ones. Also, Dr. Sax notes that, in particular, the Eliot poems and Joyce stories tend to be floating around the internet on different sites and in different forms, and these are fine to use. Descartes’ Discourse is out there too online, in different forms, for free.

Descartes, René. Discourse on Method and the Meditations. Trans., F. E. Sutcliffe. New York: Penguin, 1968. 0140442065

Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land, Prufrock, and Other Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998. ISBN: 0486400611.

Richard Humphreys, ed. Futurist Manifestos. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2001. ISBN: 9780878466276.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Dover, 1991. ISBN:  978-0486268705

Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Trans., Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993. ISBN: 0674948394.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1984. ISBN: 0-8166-1173-4.

  • ENGL 541: Search for Identity in American Lit

Most of the semester readings you will be able to locate for free online, in one way or another. I will be providing PDFs of many shorter readings, as much as I am allowed to do. So although I am recommending the following anthology, purchasing it is not required. Those who plan to focus on American literature during their MA studies and beyond might consider investing in the anthology. Otherwise, you can succeed in the class without it.

Levine, Robert, et al., editors. The Norton Anthology of American Literature Shorter 9th Edition (Two Volume Set). W.W. Norton, 2017. ISBN: 9780393264517.

Other than that, everyone will need to secure a copy of the following novel, which we’ll be reading near the end of the semester (any edition will do, but I teach from the following):

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. ISBN: 0061120065.

  • ENGL 560: Class title and info coming soon/will appear on the schedule in early July.

Books TBD

Additional Fall 2020 Course Coming Soon

A sixth graduate literature course will be added soon, probably by the start of July, to the fall schedule. We schedule as many courses during each fall/spring semester as seems sustainable based on projected enrollment, and informed by the idea that most students take two courses each of these semesters. Our enrollment projections are rising, though, perhaps due to increased interest in well-established online graduate programs such as ours during this COVID-19 situation. Dr. Morales has responded to the call for an additional course offering and is working on something that we will schedule soon. Students currently enrolled in fall courses might find that the new course is more interesting than one of your current courses, and might want to switch. This is fine, as students can change their schedules, can freely add and drop classes as often as you like, up until the first day of any semester. As a finale note, preliminary book orders for the fall classes will be posted here on the blog near the start of July.