Shadow Writing the Global Imaginary

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Stories map the cosmos of our curiosity, of our lived experiences, and of our hopes and fears. To chart these cosmos is to be comfortable creating amid paradox, to be at ease in a world of contrast, and to not fall back on bias or pre-ordained assumptions and fore-gone conclusions. Inciting a world awareness or a global imagination is a perpetual process of othering or defamiliarizing ourselves from reductive, schismatic, and discriminatory notions about who we are, the world we live in, and our connections to one another.

The above is just a taste of the research paper yours truly is trying to finish and soon present at Great Writing: The International Creative Writing Conference, UK at Imperial College, London, where I’ll be riffing off of Junot Diaz and his “MFA vs. POC.” Writing and researching (see above pic for some of the titles I’ve been diving into) for this topic has inspired a creative writing course, which thankfully got approved to be listed as part of Saint Mary’s College of California’s January 2017 Term described on their website as: “a monthlong session held each January in which every undergraduate explores a single topic in great depth and at an accelerated pace, featuring a unique blend of opportunities on and off campus.”

If yours truly can rouse the necessary enrollment, I’ll be piloting the following course (fingers crossed!):

Craft is Culture: Shadow Writing the Global Imaginary

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION
“In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all…” author Junot Diaz states in his “MFA vs. POC” (New Yorker, 2014) thereby igniting an urgent conversation about diversity in the literary arts. For historically marginalized artists, creative writing begins and ends with perilous tension. As we read novels, short fiction, and poetry from various authors like Louise Erdrich, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Harryette Mullen, Kevin Young, Chris Abani, and Diane Glancy, we will ask how these writers subvert, make new, or de-center literary traditions. How do they make aesthetic and stylistic choices to challenge dominant narratives and to put center stage traditionally marginalized voices, neglected histories, and sub-histories? The aim of this course is to discover how craft is culture and how culture can complicate and challenge the craft of creative writing. In turn, we will also explore our own cultural and regional backgrounds to write our own creative works employing techniques from the authors we read.
Through writing, both creative and analytical, we will consider the different ways in which literary writing helps us understand identity and politics, and, conversely, how we can test notions of identity and politics to enrich and deepen our craft of creative writing. Recognizing that craft is culture and that tension drives all creative writing, this class explores reading and writing practices to incite a global cultural imagination that ultimately pinpoints intersections where truth meets art.

PREREQUISITES:
English 4

POSSIBLE READING LIST
Critical Theory:
selections from Harryette Mullen, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be,“Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded”, “Kinky Quatrains: The Making of Muse & Drudge”, “Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness”
Selections from Kevin Young, The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, “The Shadow Book”, “How Not to Be a Slave: On the Black Art of Escape”
excerpts from Dorothy Wang, Form, Race, Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry
Diane Glancy, In-between Places, “July: She has some potholders”
John Yau, “Please Wait By the Coatroom”

Fiction:
Chris Abani, The Virgin of Flames
Louise Erdrich, selections from Love Medicine
Dinaw Mengetsu All Our Names

Poetry:
Selections from Barbara Jane Reyes and Dr. Raina León

More to come as the work progresses…

Craft is Culture: Psyching up for The International Creative Writing Conference 2016

Great International Acceptance

Joy. Trepidation. Excitement. Yours truly tumulted through a gamut of responses when I opened the email declaring acceptance of a presentation proposal I almost gave up on and didn’t submit. But how could I resist the chance to throw in my hat for The International Creative Writing Conference, UK to be held this coming June at Imperial College, London? And what better topic to tackle than identity and creativity?

I’ve just assigned myself a hefty reading list to hopefully answer questions I’m a little scared to approach. The urgency to these questions is undeniable, not just for myself but for our writing communities. Below is the abstract and following are a list of links and articles that have spurred my mission along with the reading list I’ve assigned myself for the next few months.

Craft is Culture: Writing & Reading A Global Imagination

“In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all…” Junot Diaz states in his “MFA vs. POC” (New Yorker, 2014) thereby igniting an urgent conversation about diversity in the literary arts. For historically marginalized artists, creative writing begins and ends with perilous tension. If we write and read from this premise, we are primed and prepared for the necessary conflict to fuel our art. How do we engage and interrogate craft to help us explore our understandings of identity and politics, and, conversely, how do we test notions of identity and politics to enrich and deepen our craft? Recognizing that craft is culture and that tension drives all creative writing, this presentation explores reading and writing practices to incite a global cultural imagination that ultimately pinpoints intersections where truth meets art.

“We’ve certainly seen an increased urgency among individual student writers to locate themselves and their work within the evolving culture,” she says. For some, that urgency comes from self-identification with a particular ethnic or racial heritage. Others want to explore race as a means, as Voigt says, “to expand imaginative empathy without encroachment or appropriation.”

Assigned Reading

ed. Rankine, Claudine, The Racial Imaginary 

Young, Kevin, The Gray Album

Shivani, Anis, Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies

Anzaldúa, Gloria, Light in the Dark/ Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality

and more to come…

The hope and ultimate aim is to expand these ideas into workshops engaging communities in the flesh. If you have any suggestions or would like to dialogue about craft and culture, please don’t hesitate. I’d love to hear your thoughts.