ENGL 125 (F17N05): (Un)Settling BC: Robinson, Compton, and Kogawa

PAUL WATKINS
Location: Nanaimo, 345/209
Class Hours: Wednesday 6 pm-9 pm
Office Hours: Tues / Thurs 1 pm-2:20 pm
(or by appointment)
Email: paul.watkins@viu.ca
Phone: Local  2118
Office: Office: 359/ 101

“is a black / rose natural? is it indigenous to this / coast?”
—Wayde Compton, “Declaration of the Halfrican Nation”

This course offers three renowned works from the nascent canon of British Columbian multicultural literature in English. British Columbia has long been an important nexus of art, literature, activism, and other forms of creative expression within Canada. The course looks at the legacies of colonialism in BC and shows how cultures regulated to the margins resist and write back to the Empire about their cultural experiences. We will begin the course with Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach, which blends teen culture, Haisla lore, and Indigenous perspectives into a story about loss and redemption. Next, we look at Wayde Compton’s Performance Bond, which combines poetry, hip-hop, images, excerpts from oral-histories, an audio CD recording, and more, to reanimate the historical Black community of Vancouver referred to as Hogan’s Alley. We will end the course with Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, which deals directly with the interment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. These texts are engaged with the BC communities from which they write, and they are largely concerned with the task of bringing greater cultural awareness to the province and Canada. Not only will you develop an awareness of the relationship between literature and culture, you will observe how broader struggles for voice, agency, and social justice—all within the province of BC—are integral to the discussed literature and a more equitable vision of Canada.

Texts:

  • Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (Vintage)
  • Wayde Compton, Performance Bond (Arsenal Pulp)
  • Joy Kogawa, Obasan (Puffin Classics)

Evaluation:

Participation 5%
Close Reading (600-750 words) 15%
Fred Wah Review 10%
Open Book In-Class Essay (approx. 750 words) 15%
Essay Workshop 5%
Research Essay (1500-1750 words) 30%
Final Exam 20%

Assignment Breakdown:

  1. Participation (5%)

Since discussion is an important part of this class, active participation and critical thinking about the assigned reading is fundamental to the course. Careful and engaged reading will allow you to achieve success and will prepare you to pose questions, raise problems, and engage with your peers during class discussions. I am an ardent advocate for the dialogical process of pedagogy, and believe that my students should have an equal opportunity to express their opinions with their peers and instructors.

  1. Close Reading (15%): Due Sept. 27

A close reading (explication) is a nuanced and thorough analysis of a literary text. A close reading functions to bring out the nature and interrelations of a text (such as allusion, diction, images, and sound) in order to illuminate a given passage or work. The act of close reading is an explication: explicate coming from the Latin explicare, meaning “to unfold, to fold out, or to make clear the meaning of.” On our 2nd meeting I will hand out three potential passages from Monkey Beach. You will choose one and provide a 2-3 paragraph close reading of that given passage. This assignment will encourage close listening and will teach you the valuable skills of deciphering diction and incorporating textual evidence, as you engage in the act of synthesis. An example of a strong close reading will be uploaded to D2L.

  1. Fred Wah Reading/Talk Review (10%): Due Oct. 27 on D2L (see dates below)

 

This assignment gives you a chance to hear a living and vibrant poet talk about his writing process and poetics. For this assignment you are to attend at least one of the following:

  • Reading and Q&A for students: Wednesday, October 25, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., in Building 355, Room 211.
  • Evening Performance (during class time; no regularly scheduled class): Wednesday, October 25th, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm, White Sails (see above poster).
  • Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture: Thursday, October 26, at 7 p.m., in the Ralph Gustafson Theatre, Building 355, Room 203 (see above poster).

The main event is the Lecture on the Thursday evening, but all events should prove to be quite worthwhile.

After you attend the talk and/or reading you are to write a three paragraph précis of that talk and its themes. You can relate the talk and reading to discussions in class (including the assigned reading) and you might also discuss the style of the reading as well. What was the talk about? What did you learn? How did Wah organize his material? What techniques did he use for gaining audience rapport, including imagery, verbal signposts, and appropriate non-verbal messages? If it was a talk, did the presenter respond to audience questions effectively? Were certain metaphors and literary techniques used? Were there aspects of the talk that could have been more successfully presented, and if so, why?

Your completed assignment is due by Friday at 6 pm via D2L on Oct. 27th.

  1. Open Book In-Class Essay (15%): Nov 1

There will be an in-class essay where you can write about Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach or Wayde Compton’s Performance Bond. Details will be provided in class.

  1. Essay Workshop (5%): Nov. 15

You will come to class with the introductory paragraph that will provide your essay’s projected argument (with a thesis). You will also include an outline (in point form with topic sentences) that shows a critical engagement with secondary criticism. We will go over the expected format in class. You must also provide a works cited list of four to five sources that extend beyond the assigned readings for the course. You do not need to include any of these sources in your final essay, but they should clearly pertain to your argument and/or focus. Your outline must still adhere to proper style. You will take this outline to class for a workshop in which you will give and receive feedback and advice from fellow students. We will cover best practices in class leading up this assignment. At the end of that class, I will sign copies of your marked up workshop, which you will then attach to your final papers.

  1. Essay (30%): Due Nov. 29

The Research Essay will be around 5 pages in length, not including a Works Cited list. You are required to actively engage with three secondary sources in the body of this research paper—course material does not count. Please note that although secondary research is a necessary component of this assignment, your own ideas and engagement with these resources, rather than your ability to perform and incorporate research, will be graded. More detailed instructions, as well as possible topics, will be provided. I will be grading this assignment based on well-formulated and focused arguments. You are encouraged to write an essay on a topic of your own choosing.

Using the Library and Doing Research Part 1: https://youtu.be/m0NAYJkLJsk
Using the Library and Doing Research Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p1LwODR2-c
  1. Final Exam (20%): TBA

Schedule:

Sept 6 Introduction to Course

  • Short Lecture on Literature and Culture
  • Go over syllabus
  • Introductions
Sept 13 Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach

  • Monkey Beach (Part One)
Sept 20

Sept 27
  • Monkey Beach (Part Three and Four)
  • Close Reading Due 

Listening: Haisla Hip-Hop, Snotty Nose Rez Kids; 8 Native Hip-Hop artists

Oct 4
  • Hogan’s Alley Documentary and Intro to Compton; see “JD” (on D2L)
  • Library Session (6-7:30pm 305/508). Meet in 305/508 for the first part of class.
Oct 11 Wayde Compton, Performance Bond,

  • Poems: “Declaration of the Halfrican Nation”; “Afro-Saxon”; To Poitier”; “The Essential Charley Pride”; “Performance Bond”
  • Read Compton’s “Turntable Poetry, Mixed Race, and Schizophonophilia” (on D2L)
  • Compton Reading, Halfrican.

Listenings: Charlie PridePoitier’s Oscar Speech

Oct 18
  • Performance Bond, poems: “Illegalese: Floodgate Dub” and “The Reinventing Wheel”; Rune (“Blight” and “Veve”)
  • Read “Seven Routes to Hogan’s Alley” (see D2L)
  • See Interview between Compton and Watkins
  • See Fred Wah reader on D2L
  • Midterm Prep

     
Oct 25
  • Fred Wah reading (see D2L)
  • Wah events (See assignment: attend at least one of the three events)
Nov 1

 

  • Performance Bond Poems: “Forme and Chase / Vividuct,” “The New Station,” and “Ghetto Fabulous Ozymandias” (6:00-7:15)
  •  MIDTERM EXAM (in-class essay, 7:30-8:50)
Nov 8 Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1-108, Chapters 1-13)

Nov 15
Nov 22
  • Obasan (228-353, Chapters 23-39)
  • Read the short “Memorandum” at the end of Obasan


Nov 29
  • Exam Review
  • Essay Due
  • Movie Day

 

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Ph.D. Professor. Writer. Musician. A space for riffings on film, literature, and music.

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