“First, you must learn the rules. Then, you can break them.” That’s the kind of thing you often hear in an English class but you won’t hear that philosophy in my courses. The work of my class isn’t about learning “the rules”; it is about relentlessly analyzing and critiquing “those” rules, especially questioning who invented them and why. If students have learned dangerous rules without serious, political interrogation of them, then that kind of learning really isn’t worthwhile and it certainly isn’t transformative or critical.
In this class, students will always be expected to connect outside sources to writing (these sources— what we will call texts— could be books, articles, videos, film, music, archives, surveys, lectures, interviews, etc). Writing about texts is perhaps the single, common trademark for the kind of writing and thinking that is expected in college. However, this does NOT mean: that students write about things they don’t care about, that they write as if they sound like an encyclopedia/wikipedia, that they omit their own voice and perspective, that they cannot be creative and energetic, that they must sound like the type of person who might wear wool/plaid jackets with suede patches on the elbows in order to be taken seriously, that they cannot be everything that makes up their multiple selves, that they cannot be Hip Hop, Soul, Bomba, Bachata, Metal, or Rock-N-Roll, that they cannot have some fun with it. You do not give up who you are to be an academic writer; on the contrary, you take who are even MORE seriously. Last, but certainly not least, students will always be encouraged to interrogate how their own experiences, social positionality, and languages inform their perspectives.
When the semester begins, we read and write about a variety of short, online essays and watch various lectures and performances online. As we move into the second half of the semester, we begin research projects of our own design. All along that path, we constantly talk about the public nature of writing. Academic writing in the 21st century is as publicly shared, open, and accessible as facebook. There is never any writing that students do for a course blackboard, email, or ePortfolio, etc that is private. NEVER! This does not mean that students have to hide who they are because writing now is public. It just means that they need to be CLEAR on who they are. That is what this class is about. This class tries to teach what writing like that kind of academic and intellectual can mean and do.