English | American Literature Since 1914
L354 | 27677 | Scott Herring

Scott Herring

11:15a-12:05p MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TITLE:  “Ignorance”

At the start of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the novel asks what it
would be like to have no memory of the world.  At the end of Dorothy
Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, Bone Boatwright wonders if she
can ever forget the traumas of sexual knowledge.  Throughout Nella
Larsen’s Quicksand, Helga Crane reels from misreading the key scenes
of her life.  All three novels posit that if multiple forms of
knowledge exist, so too must multiple forms of ignorance.  Alongside
these three works, we’ll test this hypothesis with a variety of
twentieth- and twenty-first century literatures by Henry James, “The
Beast in the Jungle”; Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio: From the Thirties;
Toni Morrison, Sula; William Gibson, The Miracle Worker; T.C. Boyle,
The Inner Circle; Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name; and
Edward Albee, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.  We’ll supplement these
readings with a few snippets of theory from Sigmund Freud, Michel
Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and others.  Along the way, we’ll hit hot-
button topics like racial, socio-economic, ablest, and sexual
ignorance as well as themes of denial, repression, unawareness,
misinformation, elephants in the room, ideas swept under the rug,
incomprehension, unfamiliarity, stupidity, incredulity, and the
unconscious.  We’ll also examine the felt experience of being
uneducated, in the dark, inexpert, unacquainted, and out-of-the-loop—
-of readings that try to do anything but teach you something new.