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COLT 360 - Gender and Identity in Literature

CRN: 40655

Instructor: Michelle Crowson

Term: Summer 2017

Sleep Write: Criminals & Collective Dreamers

In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes of the American Dream as a perpetual threat to black bodies, and of education as a well intentioned arm of that dream: “Very few Americans will directly proclaim that they are in favor of black people being left in the streets. But a very large number of Americans will do all they can to preserve the Dream…[and] a great number of educators [speak] of ‘personal responsibility’ in a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility.” What role, then, does the personal play in the political life of writing? What role do we play as students, teachers, writers and readers? Coates writes in the same era of President Elect Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” a call haunted by the ghost of a lost American Dream. What are the gendered and racialized parameters of this Dream? How do we sleep right in the midst of a violent or long lost dream? Is reading or writing an exonerating act of personal responsibility? Pursuing these questions across national and linguistic borders, this course explores the intersection of dream worlds, criminality, and the lyric voice in collective imaginations of the 20th and 21st centuries. Pivoting around literary texts that speak intimately from criminalized margins, we will explore how socio-political systems interact with the voices of subjects writing directly to dreamers. We will explore the relationship between institutions, ideologies, and the lyric voice, taking the time to “sleep write” our way toward understanding collective imagination, and taking seriously Coates’ warning that the “good intention” of education is broad exoneration, “a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.” We will write ourselves into/out of the Dream with a final project that may consist of an analytical paper, lyric essay, or a hybrid.

Satisfies General Education Requirements:

  • Group-Satisfying: Arts and Letters
  • Multicultural Courses: Identity, Pluralism, and Tolerance (IP)