ENGL 490-001

ENGL 490-001

Literature Majors Seminar
Laurie McNeill
Term 1
M, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM

“Speaking Truth to Power on Stage, Page, and Screen: Resistance and Testimony in Contemporary Life Narrative”

In this section of English 490 we will study contemporary life narratives that challenge hegemonic norms in the stories they tell or the way they choose to tell them. We’ll analyze how these counter-narratives use personal testimony to challenge whose stories are heard (and believed), and whose lives matter. We will analyze these texts as representing experience in order to resist dominant norms and, in the process, articulate new kinds of cultural memory, critical practices, institutional knowledges, even potentially legal frameworks. How do these writers deploy the political potential of life narratives, by bearing witness to their own lives and experiences? How do these texts, in the stories they tell and how they choose to tell them, make space for representation of historically marginalized communities and subjects?

In taking up these questions, we’ll study a series of life narratives in different forms, including lives being represented on stage, page, and screen. Readings will include Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical, Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, David Chariandy, Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter, essays by Alicia Elliot, Roxane Gay, and Clemantine Wamariya, and stand-up comedy specials (Gadsby’s Nanette, Minhaj’s Homecoming King), as well as relevant theoretical materials. Assessment will include research papers and projects, collaborative roundtables, and contributions to discussion.

As the Faculty of Arts has determined that all BA courses will be offered online in Fall 2020, this course will go ahead using a combination of asynchronous (recorded/text/online) materials and synchronous (real-time) classes in our designated timeslot.