English | Intro to Writing & the Study of Literature: I Will Survive
L142 | 15836 | Anderson
Lecture 15836 1:25-2:15pm MW WH
• 15837 10:10-11:00am TR SW 103
• 15838 11:15-12:05pm TR BH 229
• 15839 11:15-12:05pm TR SY 022
• 15840 12:20-1:10pm TR SY 006
• *22236 2:30-3:20pm MW TBA
o *This discussion section for Honors students only.
Are you a “survivor”?
Do you have a story to tell?
Most people who answer “yes” to the first question also say so to
the second. Stories about survival are as common as they are
miraculous: from wars, ethnic “cleansings,” and natural disasters
to plane crashes, personal traumas, and hiking mishaps that force
one to sever one’s own arm with a pocket knife in order to escape a
crushing boulder, a broad range of human events inspire an equally
broad genre of what we would call survivor stories.
What are these events, these things that one can endure—and
presumably live through—and be called a “survivor”? For what
reasons do we tell these stories, as much in fiction as in
nonfiction? For what reasons do we read and view them, both
individually and as a culture that seems ever ready to hear the next
new tale of survival? These are some of the key questions we’ll be
asking and trying to answer through careful reading and writing.
The class will consist of three units, and we will likely read the
following texts (with the chance of other items being included as
well). In the first unit, Surviving the Natural, we will look at
familiar tales of human vs. nature in the struggle to survive,
including two very different fictional shipwrecks: Daniel Defoe’s
classic, Robinson Crusoe, and Yann Martel’s recent Life of Pi. A
much different book, Joyce Wadler’s My Breast: One Woman’s Cancer
Story, will ask us to think about what this human vs. nature
struggle to survive looks like when the nature we’re combating is
inside us. Unit two, Surviving the Institutional, will examine
autobiographies from people who have endured large-scale
oppressions, including slavery, genocide, and government upheaval.
Here, our texts will be Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, Elie
Wiesel’s Holocaust narrative, Night, and Chanrithy Him’s story of
surviving the Khmer Rouge overtaking of Cambodia in the early 1970s,
When Broken Glass Floats. Our final unit will consider a kind of
survival we might not readily acknowledge as such. In Surviving the
Everyday, we will read different accounts of people simply
struggling to “get by” in the lives they lead, including the
uniquely moving graphic novel by Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan: The
Smartest Kid on Earth, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s first-hand look at
American working conditions, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By
in America. We will also watch Jorge Furtado’s short film, Isle of
Flowers. Lectures will punctuate our readings throughout with
excerpts from relevant films (such as Castaway, The Killing Fields,
and Life is Beautiful) and bits and pieces from popular media
(television programs such as Lost and that other one on CBS whose
name I always forget).
Because this is also a composition course, we will devote
considerable lecture and discussion section time to considering how
to write about what we’re reading and viewing. There will be two
longer papers (4 pages), four shorter papers (2 pages), and midterm
and final exams. But if you can muster Gloria Gaynor’s hopeful
determination, you too will, well, you know.