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Abstract/Syllabus:

Brouillette, Sarah, 21L.488 Contemporary Literature: Literature, Development, and Human Rights, Spring 2008. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), http://ocw.mit.edu (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Contemporary Literature: Literature, Development, and Human Rights

Spring 2008

Stylized figures of people striding forward.

March, 2008 cover of a periodical published by the Bureau of International Information Programs.  (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State.)

Course Description

Central to our era is the gradual movement of all the world's regions toward a uniform standard of economic and political development. In this class we will read a variety of recent narratives that partake of, dissent from, or contribute to this story, ranging from novels and poems to World Bank and IMF statements and National Geographic reports. We will seek to understand the many motives and voices – sometimes congruent, sometimes clashing – that are currently engaged in producing accounts of people in the developing world: their hardships, laughter, and courage, and how they help themselves and are helped by outsiders who may or may not have philanthropic motives. Readings will include literature by J. G. Ballard, Jamaica Kincaid, Rohinton Mistry, and John le Carré, as well as policy documents, newspaper and magazine articles, and the Web sites of a variety of trade and development commissions and organizations.

Syllabus

Course Description

Central to our era is the gradual movement of all the world's regions toward a uniform standard of economic and political development. In this class we will read a variety of recent narratives that partake of, dissent from, or contribute to this story, ranging from novels and poems to World Bank and IMF statements and National Geographic reports. We will seek to understand the many motives and voices – sometimes congruent, sometimes clashing – that are currently engaged in producing accounts of people in the developing world: their hardships, laughter, and courage, and how they help themselves and are helped by outsiders who may or may not have philanthropic motives. Readings will include literature by J. G. Ballard, Jamaica Kincaid, Rohinton Mistry, and John le Carré, as well as policy documents, newspaper and magazine articles, and the Web sites of a variety of trade and development commissions and organizations.
Required Texts

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000. ISBN: 9780374527075.

Ballard, J. G. Rushing to Paradise. New York, NY: Picador USA, 1995. ISBN: 9780312131647.

Le Carré, John. The Constant Gardener. New York, NY: Scribner, 2000. ISBN: 9780743215053.

Wa Thiong'o, Ngugi. Petals of Blood. New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2005. ISBN: 9780143039174.

Fielding, Helen. Cause Celeb. New York, NY: Penguin, 2002. ISBN: 9780142000229.

Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance. New York, NY: Knopf, 1996. ISBN: 9780679446088.

Assignments

Grading

ACTIVITIES PERCENTAGES
5-7 pages essay and revision 35%
10-12 pages essay 35%
Discussion leadership and participation 30%

Essays

You will each write one 5-7 pages essay and then revise it with help from your peers. Your grade will average the first version and its revision. Topics will be broad enough to allow you to explore your specific interests, but will involve close reading of key passages and detailed analysis of the texts.

You will also each write one longer (10-12 pages) essay. I may encourage you to submit an essay for the Kelly prize. If you decide to do so, you will want to expand your work to 15 pages.

Discussion Leadership

The heart of this class is discussion. On a rotating schedule (distributed in the second week of class), you will each be responsible for leading our seminar conversation. You will present contextual materials, activities, and questions appropriate to the readings for that day, and you will have the opportunity to lead the conversation in the direction you think best for at least 20-30 minutes, after which, if and when discretion dictates, I may take over.

You will each have your own space within the MIT server forum where you can (but needn't) submit any materials or links you would like us to consider before class. We will make ourselves responsible for checking the forum, but you must add any new material at least 24 hours before one of your sessions. You may also bring any materials you like to class. Collect your materials and make a list of sources to hand in as well.

Effective Participation

Come to class having read the assigned material carefully, and prepared to listen to your classmates and engage in conversation and respectful debate with them. You will not be expected to have a brilliant insight at every moment, but by all means come prepared to voice your thoughts and interpretations. All of your ideas, opinions, and questions matter.

Additional Expectations

Attendance is mandatory. If you are going to be absent you must alert me, in advance. Each student will be allowed two absences, after which he or she will lose 1% (of the course total 100%) for each incident. Being late is a form of absence, and I will decide when a sufficient number of late arrivals becomes equivalent to one day of absence.

Plagiarism will be heavily penalized. The Literature Faculty policy states: "students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work." For more, find the style guides at the Writing Center, or visit MIT Online Writing and Communication Center.

***Do not bring food, mobile phones, or laptops to class. I will consign them to a fiery pit. Exceptions are made when you are using your laptop for class purposes.***

Useful References

Prof. Brouillette's Essay-marking Code

Key Terms, Concepts, and Organizations

Guide to Close Reading

Guide to Writing Literature Essays

Calendar

Lec # TOPICS KEY DATES
1 Introduction  
2 "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid"  
3 "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid" (cont.)  
4 Climate change symposium  
5 "The Fortunate Traveller"  
6 "The Fortunate Traveller" (cont.)  
7 A Fine Balance, I-III  
8 Essay workshop First essay due
9

A Fine Balance (cont.), IV-XI

Class meets w/o professor B

 
10 A Fine Balance (cont.), XII-end  
11 A Small Place  
12 A Small Place (cont.) / Life and Debt (film)  
13 Rushing to Paradise, to p. 91  
14 Review session Revised essay due
15 Rushing to Paradise (cont.), to p. 168  
16 Rushing to Paradise (cont.), all  
17 The Constant Gardener, pp. 1-135  
18 The Constant Gardener (cont.), pp. 136-322  
19 The Constant Gardener (cont.), pp. 323-end  
20 Petals of Blood, part I  
21 Petals of Blood (cont.), parts I-III  
22 Petals of Blood (cont.), all  
23 World bank and National Geographic narratives  
24 Cause Celeb, to p. 175  
25 Cause Celeb (cont.), to end  
26 Wrapping up Final essay due



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