English - Free topic 8: Sing, Unburried, Sing: Jesmin Ward’s Writing, 2008-2018 and Gender Studies and Anglo-American Literature

Course content

Sing, Unburied, Sing: Jesmyn Ward’s Writing, 2008-2018 (Martyn Bone)

During the last decade, Jesmyn Ward has emerged fairly clearly as the most significant new voice in American literature. In an unprecedented achievement, Ward has won the National Book Award—American’s literature preeminent prize—for each of her last two novels: Salvage the Bones (2011) and Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017). Since her debut novel Where the Line Bleeds appeared in 2008, Ward has published five books: three novels, a memoir, and an edited volume of poetry and essays.

In this course, we will consider Ward’s collected body of work from various perspectives. Having been born in Mississippi and located all of her novels in the same fictional town of Beau Sauvage, Ward’s fiction has been compared to William Faulkner Yoknapatawpha saga. Ward has acknowledged Faulkner’s influence, but also noted “the failures of some of [Faulkner’s] black characters…the lack of imaginative vision.” As a black female writer, Ward is also seen as the heir to Toni Morrison and the African American women’s literary tradition: comparisons to Morrison intensified following the “magical realism” of Sing, Unburied, Sing. But Ward’s choice of The Fire This Time (2016) for the title of the essay and poetry collection that she edited also pays homage to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and a broader African American literary heritage. Meanwhile Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped (2013), can be located in the long tradition of African American autobiography and non-fiction narratives about black masculinity. Yet Ward’s fiction also draws on Greek mythology (notably, in Salvage the Bones, the myth of Medea and Jason), and while Ward stresses that “The stories I write are particular to my community and my people” in Mississippi, she also insists that “black and female authors” too “lay claim to classic texts.” We will consider Ward’s work in these various literary and cultural contexts, and with reference to the emerging body of scholarship about her writing.

 

Gender Studies and Anglo-American Literature (Christa Vogelius):

This course will present feminist literary criticism and gender studies as a lens for examining works of Anglo-American literature. The class will span from first wave feminism and ideas of sexuality in the nineteenth-century to contemporary work and the current #metoo movement, covering a broad range of periods and genres, and offering both a historical and theoretical perspective on literary constructions of gender. Each class will pair a critical work with a primary text, and course coverage will include first to fourth wave feminisms; the recovery of “lost” women writers; literary form and genre in relation to gender; the male and female gaze in visual imagery; feminism and race; feminism in an international context; constructions of gender and sexuality through time; and masculinity and men in feminism. Critical/theoretical texts will likely include Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1843); Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929); Judith Butler, from Gender Trouble (1990); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and Michael Cobb, from Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled (2012); as well as articles by Kate Millett, Gayatri Spivak, John Berger, and bell hooks.  Primary literary works will likely include Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1823); poems by Emily Dickinson; stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; and Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015). 

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

Sing, Unburied, Sing: Jesmyn Ward’s Writing, 2008-2018

Primary texts (final choice TBC):

Jesmyn Ward, Where the Line Bleeds (2008)

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)

Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped (2013)

Jesmyn Ward, ed., The Fire This Time (2016)

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017)

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 4 with Written and Oral Proficiency in English.

ECTS
15 ECTS
Type of assessment
Other
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5