Discussion on Parity and Decolonization in Literary Editing & Publishing

Before my Literary Editing & Publishing class yesterday, my students completed the following reading assignments:

Read “Self-Portrait of the Artist as Ungrateful Black Writer” by Saeed Jones and “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist” by Jenny Zhang on Buzzfeed; “Sherman Alexie Speaks Out on the Best American Poetry 2015” on The Best American Poetry blog; “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker; “Have They Run Out of White Poets Yet?” and “regarding the yellowface poet” by Franny Choi; “Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too” by Jean Ho, “Decolonize, Not Diversify” by Kavita Bhanot on Moodle; “Cate Marvin Discusses the VIDA Count: An Interview” (pgs. 279–284) and “Counting Bodies: Notes for Further Consideration” (285–286) by Marcelle Heath in Paper Dreams.

In class, they discussed editorial responsibilities toward the parity and decolonization of publishing. They broke down the semantic differences between “diversity” and “decolonization,” and they discussed the impact on writers of editorial biases through first-hand accounts and poetic responses by Saeed Jones and Franny Choi. In addition to the articles and works above, we read excerpts from “On Pandering” by Claire Vaye Watkins, and I charged my students with interrogating their own implicit and explicit biases. We discussed again the idea that there’s no one literary tradition, that there’s many literary traditions and the “canon” is just one of those traditions. We considered appropriation’s history within western literary culture and the ongoing negative impact it has on creative work. We also talked about how, ideally, all editors should frequently interrogate their own tastes, aesthetics, and biases so that they don’t become lazy in their work. This was one of the most important classes that I think I’ve ever facilitated, and my students had  a great deal of insight, questions, and concerns to contribute during the discussion. Many of them were horrified to find out about these issues in publishing and how these implicit biases were sometimes ignored by editors.

Course Descriptions & Reading Lists for ENG 2015: Poetry Workshop & ENG 2016: Prose Workshop

ENG 2015: POETRY WORKSHOP

Instructor’s Course Description
American poet C.D. Wright once wrote: “If I wanted to understand a culture, my own for instance . . . I would turn to poetry first. For it is my confirmed bias that the poets remain the most ‘stunned by existence,’ the most determined to redeem the world in words.” In this course, we will hold poetry to this noble standard, as an amplifier for the voices in our culture and an invocatory rendering of our world. In doing so, I’ll ask you to not only read and write poetry but also begin to look at your surroundings as a poet would. This requires close examination of images, scrutiny of your thoughts and feelings about subject matter, and consideration for other points of view. Additionally, you will be asked to think deeply about language, in terms of its meanings, its sounds, its rhythms, and its forms. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. As a means of introduction to the craft of poetry, students will submit original poems for workshop, a collaborative discussion about writing techniques and their effects on readers. In addition to workshop, you will be asked to engage with the writing of contemporary poets, to read like a writer would. I’ve chosen a couple of poetry collections and The Best American Poetry 2015 so that you will have a lens through which to examine the current landscape of American poetry and to see that even today poets are still trying to “redeem the world in words.”

Required Texts

  • The Best American Poetry 2015, ed. Sherman Alexie. Scribner, 2015. ISBN: 978-1476708195
  • Charms Against Lightning by James Arthur. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-1556593871*
  • Poems by Elizabeth Bishop. FSG, 2011. ISBN: 978-0374532369
  • A Larger Country by Tomás Q. Morín. Copper Canyon, 2012. ISBN: 978-0966339598*
  • Miscellaneous poems/packets on Moodle

*Arthur and Morín will be reading at Centenary College on September 23, 2015.

 

ENG 2016: PROSE WORKSHOP (ONLINE)

Instructor’s Course Description
This online course will introduce students to a variety of prose forms: flash fiction, the short story, personal essay, and memoir. Using Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing as a technique and terminology guide, students will analyze published prose and write their own pieces for workshop, a collaborative discussion about the effects of writers’ choices on readers. You should bring to this class a hard work ethic supported by curiosity and generosity. We will base our discussions on how texts work rather than what they mean, after Francine Prose’s ideal of “reading like a writer.” My approach to teaching writing is founded on the belief that our writing skills must be practiced and cultivated, and that one must continually challenge one’s aesthetics, habits, and concerns throughout one’s writing life in order to write anything of consequence to one’s readers and, perhaps more importantly, one’s self.

Required Texts

  • Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway. Longman, 2014. ISBN: 978-0134053240
  • The Best American Short Stories 2014, ed. Jennifer Egan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0547868868
  • The Best American Essays 2014, ed. John Jeremiah Sullivan. Mariner, 2014. ISBN: 978-0544309906
  • Miscellaneous readings on Moodle