Joan Pong Linton

9:30a-10:45a TR (25 students) 3 cr. IW.

TOPIC: “Writers as Citizen Critics on Poverty and Possibilities”

This course requires community service.

Why is poverty such an entrenched social problem? What social forces are at work in its generational reproduction, its feminization, and its association with crime? What cultural histories have shaped our perceptions of the rich, the poor, and the homeless? How have writers from different times and places participated in the public discourse on poverty, homelessness, and social justice? How might individual citizens and organizations help address poverty and its attendant social problems? In this course, students will have the opportunity to develop a social and historical understanding of poverty and homelessness by integrating community service (2 hours per week minimum) into classroom learning. Possible places of service include Martha’s House, Banneker Center, Girls, Inc., and the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project.

In discussing a variety of readings, we will examine how notions of work and property have historically become interwoven with stereotypes of the “deserving” and “undeserving poor.” Our readings will also take into account the global forces shaping regional poverty, as well as its local and personal impact. Relating these readings to our own service experiences and observations, we will consider how our understanding of political entitlement and responsibility is shaped by cultural and economic forces, how we may educate ourselves and others on the complexities of the issues, and how we may realistically imagine the world as it is could otherwise be.

In written reflections, we will try to relate our service experiences to our readings, first, by examining what skills and literacies are involved in moving between academic and community places. As writers, we will also practice critical, analytical, and inquiry skills necessary for conducting research and presenting it in writing. In the process, we will develop the rhetorical skills and narrative strategies necessary for effective communication on the subject, skills and strategies that will no doubt be applicable to the demands of future classes and professional tasks.

Assignments and Responsibilities:
The written work for this course includes one-page focused reflections in which students relate their service experience to assigned readings, a piece of writing for use or distribution by the community organization, a research essay, and a series of short writings building towards the research essay. In addition, students will pair up to lead discussion and individually present their work to the class and to community partners.

Possible Texts:
Your service will be one of the texts in this course, and there will be regular sessions during which we will critically reflect on different aspects of your service, locating it in broader contexts of social action.
In addition, readings may include:
Toni Cade Bambara, The Lesson
Matthew Clayton and Andrew Williams, eds., selections from Social Justice
Thomas Deans, Writing and Community Action
Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Andreas Fuglesang and Dale Chandler, The Culture of Poverty
Bronislaw Geremak, selections from Poverty: A History
Anne Lewis Johnson, Fast Food Women
(video) William Langland, Piers Sets the World to Work
Henry Milner, selections from Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work
Denny Taylor, selections from Toxic Literacies
Mary Williams, selections from Poverty and the Homeless
The Women’s Bank of Bangladesh (video)