ENG295 “World Literatures Written in English” is the capstone course for the Writing and Literature major. Students in their final year at LaGuardia take the course before many of them move on to English programs at Hunter, Queens, Brooklyn, and City Colleges. This section of the course focused on South African literature from right before the fall of Apartheid (1990) through the present. Throughout the semester, we discussed the question of individual responsibility in relation to the readings, particularly in Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s A Human Being Died That Night and JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. These particular texts brought up questions of how we deal with stories of unspeakable trauma and what is the price that society has to pay in order to overcome them. The ethics of individual responsibility is central to these texts. In addition, we also had a guest speaker who visited the class and graciously told us the story of her own upbringing in Apartheid South Africa. Her descriptions of the way skin and hair became markers of racial categorization held resonance in the United States’ own history of racial oppression. I thought these discussions would culminate in an in-class reflective essay that would allow the students to make connections between their own experiences and those that they read and heard about coming from the other side of the world. The glue that would bind South Africa and the United States was a poem by Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. The concrete experience of micro-aggression captured in the small prose poem would allow the students to compare and contrast the systematic oppression of South Africa and the current pernicious and pervasive forms of racism present in our own society. This reflective essay would be an opportunity for the students to synthesize the discussions and readings from throughout the semester and bring it back to their own experience. In the end, the assignment captured all three of the dimensions found in the Global Learning Competency and expected students to demonstrate advanced the writing skills.
Main Course Learning Objectives:
- Enable students to understand evolving literary traditions in the global context.
- Compare and contrast historical and social periods across geo-political boundaries.
- Enable students to compare and contrast historical and social periods across geo-political boundaries.
- Reinforce and develop research and writing skills acquired in English 101 and 102.
- Reinforce and develop critical thinking skills needed to interpret and analyze literary texts.
Kapetanakos, Demetrios, "Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and South African Literature: Comparing and Contrasting Racism in the US and South African Context [Literature]" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.