Literary Tribalism: How to Read Race, Class, Nation & Gender (ENG 220)

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In this introductory course, students will learn how to read and apply a critical eye towards the reading of race, class, nation, and gender in works of fiction, poetry, and drama. Students will begin with a rereading of Harper Lee’s seminal To Kill a Mockingbird in terms of region, race, and class—three factors comprising “American tribalism” fiction, according to Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2010 essay in The Guardian, which was written on the fiftieth publication anniversary of the American classic. The course takes its name from Adichie’s coinage and invites students to probe into the ways in which fictional forms both inscribe and construct notions of cultural identity. We will then move from a discussion of whiteness and The South to depictions of immigrant identity, transnationalism, black and Native American culture, all while also reading important works of Cultural Studies that should inspire students to come up with their own critical research questions for the course.

This class is a reimagining of the more typical “Intro to Multicultural Lit” offering: it combines multiethnic American lit with world and postcolonial texts while supplementing the cultivation of personal research questions fostered in ENG 210 (Intro to Literary and Cultural Studies). Students will complete oral presentations that require them to teach the major points found within one academic source of secondary criticism related to their essays and/or ongoing semester work. We will also apply our analysis of narrative tribalism to immigrant and multicultural stories found in the lives of Atlantans who embody the idea of a “New South,” and we will produce original podcasts and digital maps to build the “Sweet Om America Lab,” an Oglethorpe web-project that will showcase transnational Atlanta narratives while also expanding the skill set of traditional literary studies.