25804 Signs of the Americas

It is a common misconception that literature can happen only in the alphabet or that such non-alphabetical literatures have long ago ceased to be made. This course corrects such misconceptions by exploring modern and contemporary literatures that have been written with, or in response to, such sign-systems as pictographs, hieroglyphs, totem poles, wampum, and khipu. Focusing especially on the sign-systems of the native Americas, this class gives students a basic introduction to the mechanics of these signs, in order to discuss how these mechanics might be at play in the works of such poets, writers, and artists as Anni Albers, Simon Ortiz, Gerald Vizenor, Louise Erdrich, John Borrows, Charles Olson, Bill Reid, Robert Bringhurst, Fred Wah, Clayton Eshleman, Cy Twombly, Joaquín Torres-Garcia, Cecilia Vicuña, and others. Key questions to be asked include: how are these signs an interface for contemporary histories of nation and capital? And: how do those material histories and their identifications in race, gender, kinship, and ecology change when cast in the mechanics, tropes, and figures of these signs? As a “Makers Seminar,” this course will include creative alternatives to the standard analytical college paper. (Fiction, Poetry, Theory) This is a Makers Seminar intended for English majors, but is open to all students.

2018-2019 Spring