Exploring Grief in 20th Century North American Literature
Autumn Quarter 2015
Course: English 242
Instructor: Tesla Schaeffer
Course Specific Subtitle: Exploring Grief in 20th C North American Literature
In this course, we will explore questions of grief and grievability through the lens of 20th Century writing on suffering and trauma.
In the current social landscape, many questions are emerging not only about which bodies are grievable or visible within the landscape of human suffering, but also about to whom a tragic story actually belongs – and, moreover, about the process whereby a subject’s suffering may become legible in legal discourse as worthy of reparation or political change. Who gets to remember, construct, narrate or testify to trauma? What are the parameters by which he or she is constrained? How are such stories disseminated and consumed, and by whom? What does grief actually feel like, when experienced directly?
We will approach the topic from a variety of different angles, using grief as an entry point into a variety of topics related to contemporary identity formation. We will ground our discussions in a selection of literary works, including novels, works of poetry and memoir by Dionne Brand, Helene Cooper, Joan Didion, Joy Harjo and Chang-Rae Lee.
Please note that since this course fulfills the W requirement, you should expect to do lots of writing (in the form of in-class exercises and formal, graded papers). Class time will be student-centered and discussion-based, so it is very important that you come to class prepared to engage with challenging texts and topics