Instruction at Emory University
During my time at Emory University, I designed and taught four undergraduate classes. Two are composition courses, designed to use literature as well as popular culture to teach writing: Fall 2009's "Contemporary American Print Culture" and Spring 2012's "Exploring the Archive." "Birmingham to Belfast: Civil Rights Poetry" was a literature-based writing course and "The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library" was an upper-level English class for which I won the Dean's Teaching Fellowship.
"The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library" discussed the modern, postmodern, and Irish strengths within what used to be the world's largest privately owned Anglophone poetry collection. Every unit included topics on defining the era and notable small presses, magazines, and authors from the period. Students generated their own close readings of the material by comparing the artifacts to the literature.
"Exploring the Archive" combined writing instruction on subjects ranging from cliches, thesis development, organization, proofreading, and proper citation techniques with an overview of archival topics. Students studied the decay of Egyptian archives, new discoveries in English libraries, the strengths of Emory's special collections, and technology concerns regarding to born digital material. Exciting discussions occurred around the role of Facebook in contemporary life and how difficult it was to read the few postcolonial archive theorists (prompting another discussion on "why do they write that way?"). Students even tried new genres, like book reviews and poetry pastiches. Semester projects included each individual creating a three-piece online exhibition and a final essay discussing their curatorial choices.
"Birmingham to Belfast: Civil Rights Poetry" took its inspiration from the writing of the American Civil Rights movement and the poetry composed during and about the Northern Irish Troubles. Examining our own American history included examining black nationalist texts from Marcus Garvey, Black Panther publications, Black Arts Movement poetry, and the critiques of the movement brought by women writers in the 1970s. A film week took us across the Atlantic, allowing the class to compare Malcolm X to Bloody Sunday. In Ireland, we read Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and others in order to compare their strategies of documentary and allegory. Historical lectures (including my personal photos of July 12, 2010's Orange parades and bonfires from the Shankill district) helped ground close readings of the literature. Students responded to the poetry by placing it into context with the history, culture, art, and film we saw during class.
"Contemporary American Print Culture" began with the newspaper barons of the early twentieth century and ended with discussions of blogs and book deals. Students had the opportunity to build their own websites, write a standard research paper, and submit an opinion-editorial. Some of the best student projects included evaluations of hometown newspapers print versus digital content and analyses of the movie, online, and print versions of Julie & Julia.
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