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CHID 480 B: Special Topics: Advanced Study of the History of Ideas

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
CMU 243
Caroline Simpson
Caroline Chung Simpson

Syllabus Description:

CHID 480                                                Professor Caroline Chung Simpson

TTh, 3:30-5:20pm                                           A-301 Padelford

CMU 243                                                 Office hours: Tuesday, 2-3:20 pm,

                                                                 And by appt.



The New Poetics of Race


This course is just what the title claims: a foray into the amazing political works of younger poets of color. What is different in this course is that we will not be primarily close reading these poems as you might in a conventional literature course. (Although of course I will provide that angle in my initial intro to each of our poets and as we find it useful.) Instead, in our breakout groups we will focus on plumbing the way these poems impact us affectively as living readers occupying various social and intellectual contexts and different bodies, as well as the many unexpected or unusual ways we understand these poems to be engaging a range of cultural phenomena and political histories. In other words, we will try to enjoy how these poems live and struggle in the world alongside us, rather than diminishing them to so meters or metaphors or symbols. The point is, above all, to revive something of the ineffable power of lyrical writing, or as William Carlos Williams said of poetry’s importance: ‘You won’t find the news there, but humans die everyday for a lack of what is to be found there.’



Required Texts:

Don’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith

Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong

Whereas, Layli Long Soldier

Look, Solmaz Sharif

Cannibal, Safiya Sinclair

Patient, Bettina Judd


[The above texts are all available from Amazon, or you may contact a local bookstore—always nice to support the latter, since they do so much to support poetry. Elliot Bay Books (206) 624-6600; Third Place Books has two Seattle locations, one in Ravenna (206) 525-2347; and one in Seward Park (206) 474-2200.]



Required Work:

  1. Small Breakout Groups/Pairings:

--This counts for 45% of your final grade, or 15 per section. Why so much? Because the work you do in these small groups will be critical to what you learn in here as fellow critics. And you won’t be alone. Each time, I will sit in with a different group, eager to learn with you. Whatever conclusions or questions we develop in these breakout groups will be shared with the class when we reconvene.

--Barring illness or accident, for each day of breakout discussion missed, .3 will be deducted from your final grade. If you never miss a group day, then this is an easy 4.0.



  1. Your Responses to the Works:

--This counts for 40% of your final grade. It’s your chance to respond/talk back to/or otherwise renegotiate the terms of any poem. Both critical and creative approaches are welcome. Would you like to write back with a poem of your own? Do it! The length of these responses will of course vary. See the syllabus for deadlines. Note that all deadlines fall BEFORE the end of the quarter.



You have two options for meeting this requirement:


  • The first is to complete two short responses, each over a different poet. Each is worth 20%, for a total of 40%. These may be either critical or creative in nature. If you choose to do a critical response, it should be 3-4 pages. If you choose to write a poem in response, then 2 pages is fine. But you must complete two, regardless. The deadlines for these vary depending on which works from which sections you choose. (See course schedule below for deadlines for writing about works in each section.)


  • The second option is to complete a longer critical response to one or more works (6-7 pages), OR to complete a longer poem that is inspired by or responds to a poem in a specific section (3-4 pages). Whether you choose to complete a longer response or poem, it will be worth 40%. This is due by the final class day. (See course schedule below.)


Ask me about any of the options above if they are unclear. I will also set aside ample class time to discuss the potential scope of each of these projects. Most of all, I want to offer you a great deal of latitude in how you choose to demonstrate what you’ve learned from the course. Is there another way you’d like to do this? Just pitch me a proposal. But do it early, don’t wait until we’re deep into the quarter.



  1. C. Select a Poem:


--This counts for 15% of your final grade. In short, find one good poem you like ‘out there’ in the world and send it to the class. You’ll begin by telling us why you chose it, including what you liked about it and what, if any, you are still trying to figure out about how it works. Then, we’ll discuss what we think about it. This is a chance for us to pitch in as collaborative readers and live a little. Who knows what we’ll do with these poems.



Course Schedule:


Section One: Queer Agonisms

Week 1

Tues, March 27           Introduction to Course; Handout for



Thurs, March 29         Discuss Thursday handout; My intro: Don’t Call Us Dead

                                        For Tuesday read: "last summer of innocence (29); "every day is a funeral & a miracle (64);

                                            "blood hangover" (60); "you're dead, america" (75)



Week 2

Tues, April 3                Breakout Groups/Pairings for readings from Don’t Call Us Dead.


Thurs, April 5              Reconvene for Don’t Call Us Dead discussion.



Week 3

Tues, April 10             Intro: Night Sky with Exit Wounds; Breakout Groups/Pairings

                                    Discuss: "Threshold" (3); "Telemachus" (7); "Self Portrait with Exit Wounds" (26);

                                      "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" (43); "Someday I'll Love You Ocean Vuong" (82).



Thurs, April 12  Reconvene for Night Sky with Exit Wounds discussion.



Section Two: Languages of Genocide

Week 4

Tues, April 17             Recap where we’ve been so far; Discuss possibilities for

Response to this section.


Thurs, April 19  Intro: Whereas; Breakout Groups/Pairings

                                      Discuss: The following excerpts from the long cyclical poem, "Whereas": pages 66/70/71/

                                       74/78/79/83; "Three" (8); "Diction" (14-22).


Section 1 RESPONSE DUE (If you are choosing to respond

To the 1st section; you must complete two responses in all

by the end of the quarter.)



Week 5

Tues, April 24             Reconvene for Whereas discussion.



Thurs, April 26             Intro: Look; Breakout Groups/Pairings

                                     Discuss: "Look" (3); "Dear Intelligence Journal" (18); "Defenders/Immediate Family" (33);

                                         "Master Film" (39); "Perception Management" (55).


Week 6

Tues, May 1                 Reconvene for Look discussion.


Thurs, May 3               Recap; Discuss possibilities for a response.




Section Three: “Treason of the Body…”

Week 7

Tues, May 8                 Cannibal Intro; Group breakouts

                               "Portrait of Eve as the Anaconda"; "Family Portrait"; "Notes on the State of Virginia, I-V"; "How to

                                Be a More Interesting Woman: A Polite Guide for the Poetess": "After the Last Astronauts Left

                                US, II (Laika)"; "The Art of Unselfing".


                            Section 2nd RESPONSE DUE (Again, if you are choosing to

                            respond to the 2nd section.)



Thurs, May 10   Reconvene for Cannibal discussions.


Week 8

Tues, May 15              Patient Intro; Group Breakouts

                              "The Researcher Discovers Anarcha, Betsey, Lucy"; "The Researcher Presents Joice Heth"; "You

                               Be Lucy, I'll Be Betsey"; "What We Are Made Of"; "Lucy on the Train"; "Joice Heath Contemplates

                               the Whale in Pinocchio or Her Right Arm"; "Joyce Heth Narrates Her Disssection"; "The Art of

                                Not Dying a Slave"; "On the Politics of Citation"; "Order"; "Ghosting"; "The Researcher

                                Contemplates Venus"; "When Asked, 'Where Do You Come Up With This Stuff?"; "Of Air

                                and Sea".


Thurs, May 17   Reconvene for Patient discussion


Week 9

Tues, May 22              3rd section RESPONSE DUE

                            Discuss poems you have chosen for us.


Thurs, May 24   Discuss poems you have chosen for us.


Week 10

Tues, May 29              Discuss poems you have chosen for us



Thurs, May 31   No Class

Final longer project (whether critical or poetic) is

                            Due today for those of you who’ve chosen this option. You

                            May turn it in via email, unless it’s a one-off, creative work.

                            In the latter case, I will make arrangements with you to do

                            The handoff.




Catalog Description: 
Examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework with an interdisciplinary perspective. Satisfies the Gateways major/minor requirement. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:12pm