Reading Infrastructure, Building Worlds
“As scholars have observed, infrastructures are defined by their invisibility: most of us hardly notice them until they fail or break down.” – Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski
English 10 acquaints students with the purposes and tools of literary interpretation. It introduces the techniques and vocabulary of analytic discussion and critical writing. Students will come away from the course with insights into the discipline, in addition to enhanced close reading and critical thinking skills.
This version of English 10 may be of interest to those curious about: literature and the environment, film and media studies, environmental humanities, critical race and ethnic studies, etc.
This course explores different literary worlds by focusing on their infrastructure – the sociotechnical systems that support the operation of a society -- and its intersections with identity, power, and environment. Our explorations will move beyond plot analysis or discussion of character development to include the ways that the text’s infrastructure and environment shape and influence the plot and characters. Literary worlds will be foregrounded in our discussion and exploration of poetry, comics, short stories, novels, essays, and films. We will seek to question who infrastructure serves, the different ways infrastructure fails or succeeds, and how it interacts with different communities and environments. A few of this course’s framing questions include: How do specific infrastructure projects, for instance the hydroelectric dam in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms, endanger or empower different lifeworlds? How does infrastructure, such as those that enforce national borders, shape citizenship? What kind of infrastructure, for example Colson Whitehead’s underground railroad, are needed to build freer worlds? What kind of building is storytelling – might it be read as a type of infrastructure?
There will be three writing assignments. The first essay will be designed to develop literary close reading skills. The second will build on these skills, but will require that students analyze how specific infrastructure shapes their lives and identity. The quarter will culminate with a third paper, which will require that students pick a theoretical lens and use it to help them develop their close reading of a text.
Authors include: Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Octavia Butler, Italo Calvino, Ralph Ellison, Oliver Goldsmith, Linda Hogan, Ursula Le Guin, Richard McGuire, Adrienne Rich, , William Shakespeare, and Colson Whitehead.