WGSS 132
Black Writing To/From/About Prison
Last Offered Fall 2019
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed WGSS 132 / ENGL 132
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

This introductory course considers the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans as it is represented on the page. Keywords for meditation and analysis include blackness, gender, prison, justice, freedom, and abolition. Each reading and class discussion will aid students in developing rigorous and nuanced understandings of these terms. The primary project in this course is the development of open letter writing skills. This epistolary form allows both for the intimate engagement of individual, familiar contact and the deft inclusion of targeted eavesdroppers in order to raise the consciousness of listeners and affirm the value of personal relationships. Course texts will include letters to and from prison; documentaries; selections from anthologies like If They Come in the Morning and Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex; autobiographies like that by Malcolm X, Walidah Imarisha, and Assata Shakur; poetry by Ericka Huggins, Huey Newton, and Terrance Hayes; and critical interventions by scholars like Nikki Jones, Victor Rios, Michelle Alexander, and Angela Davis. We will also look at contemporary groups organizing around abolition and prisoner support including Critical Resistance, Photos From Solitary, and TGIJP (Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project).
The Class: Format: seminar; discussion, engagement with guest speakers, engagement with Special Collections
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1701
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four open letters developed with critical feedback (4-5 pages), a twice weekly question diary, an organization report and presentation, a collectively decided project
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level ENGL course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
WGSS 132 Division I ENGL 132 Division I
WS Notes: Open letters are a mainstay of black literature allowing for intimate engagement of the individual and the deft inclusion of targeted eavesdroppers to raise the consciousness of listeners and affirm the value of personal relationships. Students will learn to write letters with purpose to facilitate a felt relationship to the topic; enhance writing skills including achieving clarity and aesthetic value; practice curation of references. Four 5-page letters with rigorous feedback to sharpen form.
DPE Notes: This class studies the historical development of mass incarceration of black folk from its roots in American slavery and white supremacist policy. This class also studies the impact of the prison industrial complex on transgender and queer folk in reproducing gender binaries and sexual abuse in and outside prison walls. The politics of prison abolition and gender self determination present critical interventions into the hegemonic structures of normalized racial dominance and gender oppression.
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C

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