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ENGL 223
Apocalypse Now and Then: Poets Confronting Political Crisis Spring 2021
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

In moments of great crisis, common wisdom says to turn to the poets; where, then, do the poets turn? Tracing the history of Poetry of Witness throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, this course explore various strategies poets have used to write about the end of the world, however that may be defined. We will read contemporary poets (such as Danez Smith, Ilya Kaminsky, Aracelis Girmay, and Solmaz Sharif) alongside 20th Century writers who were responding to the catastrophes of their own times (Paul Celan, Pablo Neruda, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bei Dao, and others). Looking backward to other times when the world seemed to be ending, this course will examine some of the strategies that poets have used to navigate writing about war, genocide, forced migration, gendered violence, climate crisis, and other dystopias. The readings we encounter will span various schools and poetic forms, from documentary poetics, to surrealism and the avant garde, to the Black Arts Movement, to speculative writing, and so on. They will be supplemented with critical texts on the political stakes of writing and reading practices by thinkers like Eve Sedgwick, James Baldwin, and Audre Lorde. This is a course that views creative writing as a valid form of critical inquiry; therefore, students will have opportunities to engage creatively with texts throughout the semester. For the final, students will have the option of either writing an analytical paper or submitting a creative project with a critical introduction.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 5192
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will write short weekly response papers, a 3-5 page midterm essay and an 8-10 page final essay. Creative options will be available in place of some of these assignments.
Prerequisites: None.
Enrollment Preferences: Freshmen and sophomores intending to pursue more advanced work in English; non-English majors interested in creative writing. Application may be required.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Students will produce and receive feedback on short writing assignments throughout the semester. These assignments will build skills for students to write either a final comparative analysis paper or a creative project accompanied by a critical introduction.
DPE Notes: This course focuses on the interactions between political engagements and poetic craft in the 20th and 21st centuries. As such, we will discuss the interplay between artists and the popular resistance movements of their times, the effects of power on literary forms, and the shaping of minoritarian aesthetics. Readings will center writing by poets from marginalized backgrounds whose work engages race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and disability.
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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