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College of Arts and Science

UN555 Multicultural Narratives

capstone program

Akua Sarr

Associate Dean, The College of Arts and Sciences

This is also offered as BK 22901.

Course Description

Guided by international and multicultural literature, students in this course will reflect on and explore the personal narratives that have contributed to their development. While examining the complex emotional lives of characters in the texts, we will also uncover our own intricate his (and her) stories. Stories of family, faith, race, gender, class, and nation; and the rites of passage that have made us who we are and brought us to where we are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually are the narratives we will share.

As each of the writers has a compelling story to tell—so do we all. Students should be open to sharing and reflecting on their own stories and experiences while also interpreting and analyzing the growth of characters in the novels. We will explore the concept of identity development on the level of race, gender, class, language, and nation—as the writers we will read are from African, Asian, and Latin-American heritage. We will reflect on how you define yourself and how you make meaning out of the choices that you’ve made thus far; how the past helps you to find meaning in the present; and, finally, how the present informs your future.

Success of the course will depend on full participation of its members. Thus, all reading is expected to be carefully done and completed on time, and all students should be open to thoughtful reflection and discussion.

Assignments

To include various kinds of writing—all of which will form the basis of in-class discussion

  • Reflection/Textual Response
    Reflection papers are relatively brief (2-3 pages) thoughtful responses to the texts. They may incorporate some critical analysis but are primarily personal response. What sort of emotional reaction did you have from the text? How is the text familiar to your own story? Not familiar?
  • Textual Analysis
    Textual analysis papers differ from reflection papers in that they should interpret or analyze the readings. In these brief papers (2-3 pages), you will present textual evidence to support your views. They should clearly present a coherent and organized analysis to some aspect of a text—a theme, a particular scene, a recurrent motif are some examples. I will provide questions to help guide your analysis.
  • An Oral History/Autobiography
    This reflection piece can look back as far as you like and should draw on your own personal experience and the events and people in your life that have been important to your development and the way in which you define yourself—racially, ethnically, nationally, and spiritually—or in any way that you find meaningful.
  • A Forward Looking Piece/Reflection
    This reflection piece should look forward ten years. This piece should not solely focus on what you want to do with your life, but rather what kind of person you want to be. How will your choices of career, friends, and interests reflect your values? How will you (re-?)invent the person you hope to be?
  • In Class Free-Writing
    These informal 1-page papers will be written occasionally in class. I will normally ask you to write for 15-20 minutes before or after a discussion or film. I may simply pose a question for you to consider, or these writings may be creative—a letter to the author, a persona piece where you role-play a particular character. Or they may be in the form of questions that you want to pose about the content of a specific text or film.
  • Film Reviews
    You will also be expected to write brief (1-2 pages) reviews of at least two of the films viewed in class.

Evaluation/Assessment

Evaluations of the written assignments will focus on style and expression. I will not consider your interpretation of a text or film right or wrong. Your ideas, in other words, will not be subject to judgment. However, I will expect clear and concise writing—so please make sure anything you turn in has been read and revised carefully. I do not want to read first drafts but will allow you to rewrite any assignment that you are not satisfied with after you’ve gotten feedback.

Writing (#1-5) - 50%
Film Reviews - 20%
Class Participation - 30%

Texts (4-5 will be selected)

In order to foster the development of your own interpretive skills, I ask that you do not consult criticism about the literature—websites, reviews, or scholarly articles.

Africa
Nervous Conditions
, Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

Disgrace, JM Coetzee (South Africa)

India
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
White Tiger, Aravind Adiga

Ethnic-America
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (Dominican Republic)
Caucasia, Danzy Senna (Bi-racial American)
When I was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago (Puerto Rico)

Films

Ca Twiste a Poppenguine (Senegal)
Slumdog Millionaire (British/India)
The Visitor (Ethnic America)