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The title of this course comes from Adrienne Rich’s 1969 poem “Tear Gas,” grounding our study in 1960s and 1970s feminist activist poetry but also in our current moment to answer a fundamental question: what can poetry do for us? In the 1960s and 1970s, feminist activist poets were at the center of a revolutionary social justice movement that changed the world. Feminist presses published much of the new poetry. This course focuses on the theory and practice of feminist poetry and print culture during this period, and how feminist experiments in language changed how we understand American poetry. We focus on the theoretical writings and poetry chapbooks of a diverse group of poets who powered the movement, including Audre Lorde, Mitsuye Yamada, Nelly Wong, Robin Morgan, June Jordan, Joy Harjo, Gloria Anzaldúa, Sonia Sanchez, Adrienne Rich, Judy Grahn, and Pat Parker. We also read the work of some later feminist theorists, such as Judith Butler, as we analyze the kinds of performances that brought together feminist poetry and political activism. We spend some time in the archives, analyzing documents from the period, including original publications of poetry chapbooks often published by the period’s many feminist presses and consider how such attention allows us to construct alternative narratives for feminism and American poetry. Writing at the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality, and of multiple social justice movements (Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, LGBTQ activism, and Black Power), these poets gave us a new language to “hear,” not only ourselves, but the experience and pain of others, and, in so doing, they moved personal experience into public discourse around issues of inequality and human flourishing in a democratic society.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam, or permission of instructor
English, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, American Studies majors
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Writing skills taught through a series of assignments evenly spaced throughout the semester: weekly p/f discussion posts, critical summaries of feminist criticism, two four-to-five-page graded papers, one creative assignment, a longer, final researched paper (10-12 pages), written in stages over a period of several weeks with feedback at each stage. Critical feedback on written assignments a week prior to due date through conferences and Google Docs and on graded assignments within one week.
The course examines the effects of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality on both poetry and the feminist movement and how women negotiated their differences within the movement, as well as in response to the dominant patriarchal culture. This course employs critical tools (feminist theory, archival research, poetics, close reading, comparative approaches) to help students question and articulate the social injustices that led to the poetry and poetics of the period.
AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories C
WGSS Racial Sexual + Cultural Diversity Courses
WGSS Theory Courses