AMCULT 103 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Section: 003 Codeswitch
Term: WN 2009
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

For a few years I have experimented with what I’ve come to call “the critical creative writing seminar.” In such a context, the student can expect to place in conversation literature, criticism, art and film, unified around a given theme, to produce, not the academic essay, but so-called “creative writing” (as if the academic essay were not creative!) and other hybrid texts (be they performance, installation, video, cartoons, new media…). Recently, two critical creative seminars I’ve taught (at Northwestern University and here at the University of Michigan) have taken as their syllabi’s guiding principle the question of codeswitching, a linguistic term used to designate seamless and sometimes seamy movement between languages. Acknowledging the term’s literal definition, these syllabi have focused on work that shuttles between Spanish and English, in turn, to imagine codeswitching’s metaphoric significance—potential movements between the personal and the political, fiction and memoir, prose and poetry, the visual and the verbal, the spoken and the written word in twentieth/twenty-first century representation. Leaving the realm of the readerly/viewerly, students in these seminars have invested a portion of their energies in their own interpretations of codeswitching as practice, producing remarkable word/image portfolios, which have amplified the scope of the original seminars’ ambitions. Notably, I have found myself amazed by students’ insistence upon moving between multiple languages (alternately parsed, their disregard for my Spanish?English focus has delighted me time and again). This course represents another iteration of “Codeswitch,” which learns from my previous students’ suggestive efforts (even as it cannot forget the ghosts of modernisms’ codeswitching praxis). Specifically, this critical creative writing seminar springboards off a variety of texts that move between global English(s) and one or more other (often Othered) “languages” (be they Korean, Taiwanese, French, Spanish, the fantastic, computer code, musical notation, images, and/or genetic sequencing…) to require of its participants comparable levels of dissidence and dissonance. Possible cites/sites of inquiry include: Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s performances, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee (and The Dream of the Audience), Samuel Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water, Hsia Yu’s Pink Noise, Cecilia Vicuña’s QUIPOem, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046, the musical mash-up phenomenon, and FloodNet’s “inefficient” hacktivism.

AMCULT 103 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
Note: Meets with ENGLISH 140.001
002 (SEM)
MW 6:00PM - 7:30PM
003 (SEM)
Tu 1:00PM - 4:00PM
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