I’ll submit the list of your ten texts to the honors committee next week, so I’m creating this space for you guys to negotiate with each other now.
And I think we have to have some of that negotiation here, because this process will only be satisfying to all if it’s democratic, and the Tuesday afternoon class is so much bigger than the Wednesday evening class. Like other kinds of inequality, this one poses a threat to our democracy.
So I’m creating this space for a free negotiation across the borders between Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s do this.
Here is the list of ten, as proposed by the Wednesday evening group, also with one question and one proposal to consider.
- Sophocles, Antigone
- William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
- Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
- Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
- Harriot Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
- Allen Ginsberg, Howl [There is a proposal on the table to continue to negotiate this one, see below)
- Paul Beatty, The Sellout
- Anne Boyer, “The Revolt of the Peasant Girls,” “Not Writing,” “No”
- Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
The question: There is some hesitancy about Ginsberg’s Howl, because some students worried that it would be hard to write about this poem on the exam. (Students who harbor this worry, I invite you to express your concern in more detail below!)
When it was noted that Howl invites a discussion on the exam about queer literary history, there was general agreement about the need for that, so alternatives were proposed. We could perhaps substitute Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, James Baldwin’s Another Country (or a different novel by Baldwin) or some poems by Elizabeth Bishop (although Bishop is more reticent about her sexuality, so maybe she’s not a perfect choice in this category?). Discuss below.
The proposal: We can also make an unofficial exam list for ourselves to keep track of texts that we’ve all read that seem valuable to remember, but we don’t have space for them on the exam. That list can include:
- Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a Luxury”
- An Emily Dickinson poem or two (or three)
- Whatever else you like
Let the negotiations begin.
- What should we subtract, to add what– and why?
- How should we answer the questions that remain?
- For the texts that are poems, should we include more than one– and if so, which?
You may want to consult the full list, too, as you weigh in below, in the comments.