This course addresses the relationship between narrative and cartography. The course engages two perspectives on this topic, as determined by scholars Sébastien Caquard & William Cartwright: 1) The inherent spatial structures of storytelling, or the ways in which stories are maps, 2) The narrative power of the map, or the ways in which maps are stories. In order to address these issues, students will read transcriptions of Indigenous American oral storytelling with theoretical commentary by writers such as Keith Basso and Leslie Marmon Silko; medieval European pilgrims' maps of the Holy Land; critical cartography by Potawotomi geographer Margaret Pearce; early U.S. road maps and itineraries; "cinemapping" by Les Roberts; digital texts such as the New York Times' "A Rogue State Along two Rivers," and literary texts by Elizabeth Bishop, Brian Friel, Howard Nemerov, Gloria Oden, and Luis Alberto Urrea, among others. A concluding project will require students to produce their own narrative cartography (or cartographic narration) using digital methods.
In this course, we will study contemporary novels and short stories by African American women. The 1970 anthology The Black Woman, edited by Toni Cade Bambara, will serve as a jumping-off point for our study of how a number of contemporary writers imagine the category of "Black Woman" in the decades since the Civil Rights Movement. We will consider how these works engage Women's Liberation, Black Feminism, Black Power, Black Arts, and other political movements; the increased visibility of African American women’s writing in the late twentieth century; and the relationship of these texts to the long tradition of African American literature. Authors whose works we may read include Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Danielle Evans, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
The goal of this course is to help you engage with African American literature, improving your writing, reading, and critical thinking skills in the process. This class requires substantial reading and writing and vigorous participation.