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Towards Day 10 (Th, 10/1): "The Singer May Be Innocent; Never the Song"

Anne Dalke's picture

Aayzah is locating us in the Pem East TV room
(Abby on for next Tuesday)

I. 11:25- 11:40: coursekeeping

* anyone go to the Diversity session about "what's next" for "Black @ Bryn Mawr"?

* naming?

* noting, re: last week's paper, who used whose postings:
Madi used Maryam,
Abby and Caitlin used Aayzah
Amaka, Khadijah and Maryam used Abby

Akane, Angela, Grace used “Butterfly”
Alison used yhamashima
Beatrice used hysmonds
Creighton used isabell.the.polyglot
Aayzah used Alexandra –all from the other section of our class

* By 5 p.m. tomorrow (Fri, 10/2): your fifth 3-pp. web-event is due, revising one of your earlier papers, by focusing on how your claim relates to, intersects with, clarifies, supports, challenges, complexifies, weaves into-or-beyond one of the texts we’ve read. You are looking for some kind of tension, some “crack,” some difference that you might use to work the texts against-or-with one another.

* By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/5: sixth short posting on your initial reactions to Strayed's memoir.

For class on Tues, read parts 1, 2 & 3 (176 pp) of Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. 
Look out for keywords. Come to class having selected one of them: brainstorm (and record) your thoughts about what it means; then do a simple etymological search for the history of the word (the on-line version of the Oxford English Dictionary, available through Canaday Library, is GREAT for this, but there are many other sources, including Urban Dictionary...); then begin to take some notes about how Strayed uses the term....We'll take some time in class to work w/ each other on generating a paper topic out of these materials. The focus here is on working closely with the text, quoting from it, analyzing it...

II. 11:40-12:10: turn attention to Cole--
take a minute to look over the text.
What questions does it raise for you?
(These can be factual—what was the KONY 2012 video?
or existential—what am I supposed to do with these ideas?
or anything in between…)

Let’s go around: what’s one question that this text raised for you?

Try to answer some of these…

My question: what would Teju Cole say @ a dinner party with
Debbie, Stuart and Thom? How does his argument intersect
with theirs?

III. 12:10-12:40: divide into 4 writing groups

( working w/ those you haven’t yet…)

(adapted from Joel Schloesser)
Find your partners and introduce yourself. You may choose to sit and read anywhere. Please allot 10 minutes per essay, with a maximum of 5 minutes devoted to the reading of the essay aloud.


  1. Give a hard copy of your essay to your partners.

  2. Read your essay aloud slowly, making sure you’re reading expressively in a way that holds the attention of your listener.

  3. Once you have finished reading, give your listeners time to collect their thoughts and prepare to offer you suggestions.

  4. Listening to suggestions and comments, try to focus on listening and learning from these ideas rather than defending your approach or ideas. Ask questions to clarify or have your readers think about issues with the essay that you have identified.

  5. When your selection is on the table, and everyone else is helping you brainstorm how you might work with it, TAKE GOOD NOTES.


  1. As you listen to the essay, read along on your hard copy, marking the text as questions or ideas occur to you.

  2. Once the reading has finished, go back over your notes and ask yourself the following questions, focusing on the argument of the essay:

    * What was your classmate’s argument? Could you say in your own words what her views are?

    * How did your classmate put their argument in conversation with that of one of our assigned authors?

     * Is it clear how your classmate’s argument is distinct from the author’s argument?

    * How did your classmate support their argument? What kind of evidence does your classmate adduce and how well does this evidence support the argument?

Offer your substantive and constructively critical suggestions to the author.

Once you have finished, take a few minutes to write out a revision plan:
What do you want to change or think more about as you revise this essay?
How do you plan to do this?

12:40-12:45: Return to large group: check in? Observations, insights, questions?

Reading Notes
Teju Cole writes, in his essay on "the White-Savior Industrial Complex,"
the banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality
this is not about justice; it is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege
"I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to
leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn't have a point."
cumulative effect of policed language/enforced civility:
speaking plainly is seen as unduly provocative.
Jason Russell is "tonally similar" to Nicholas Kristof:
"His good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally.
He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated "disasters"...
he sees no need to reason out the need for the need."
more to doing good work than "making a difference":do no harm/consult w/ those being helped
Cole writes from "multiple positions": as an African, American, novelist, story-writer,
resisting the song of Africa as backdrop for white fantasies,
acknowledging the genuine hurt of the continent,
naming its problems as both intricate and intensely local?
American "help" begins with some humility...
respect for the agency of people in their own lives.
If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should
consider evaluating American foreign policy...
before they impose themselves on Africa itself....
"American interests"...have a bearing on our notions of our right to "help."...
begin our activism with the money-driven villainy @ the heart of American foreign policy.
If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.