ENGLISH 140 - First-Year Seminar on English Language and Literature
Fall 2021, Section 006 - Connecting Life Stories, Connecting Lives: The Middle East and Beyond
Instruction Mode: Section 006 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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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:


In this first-year seminar, we both study and engage in the shared human practice of examining and making sense of one’s life and expressing and communicating life stories, in a wide range of mediums and genres. We will investigate a selection of Middle Eastern life narratives, ranging from more traditional life story genres like written memoir and autobiography, to live story-telling and spoken word pieces, to those in more visual mediums such as documentary and experimental film, graphic life narratives and comics, photographic representations and multi-media installations, vocal musical genres including Middle Eastern rap/hip-hop, as well as movement and dance (including works by and/or about Raja Shehadeh, Diana Abu Jaber, Assia Djebar, Sayyed Kashua, Ari Folman, Leila Abdul Razzaq, Sama al-Shaibi, DAM/Tamer Nafer, Shadia Mansour, Larissa Sansour, and others).

Alongside reading/viewing/hearing/experiencing the Middle East life stories, and analyzing them, students will also be engaged in creating short life-story pieces of their own, also in multiple mediums (they will select from written, spoken, musical, artistic, photographic, filmic mediums), based on their exploration of shared threads and connections between the Middle Eastern life narratives, and their own. E.g., after reading and discussing cookbook-memoir excerpts by Diana Abu Jaber that are triggered and structured by food-memory, students will produce a creative piece in a medium of their choosing in which a life story of theirs is elicited by a food memory. We will engage in a similar two-pronged process around life stories which foreground other experiences (individual or collective trauma, displacement/exile, experiences of belonging/un-belonging) or sensory triggers (sound/music, smell, taste, touch, etc.).

We will also devote some time in class to cultivating mindful self-awareness of different ways we sense and register our human experience, how we respond to it, as an experiential and intrinsic part of the process of more deeply engaging with and understanding the communicated life experiences and narratives of others, and in coming to articulate and creatively express our own experience.

This course is aimed at being a learning experience for' the whole person,’ including but not limited to engaging academically and analytically with a range of Middle Eastern sources, while also engaging both experientially and creatively, in connecting these works with our own lived experience.

Course Requirements:

Course requirements will include active participation and discussion in class, regular substantial discussion posts on assigned materials, and short creative pieces (mostly written, some spoken) roughly every 2 weeks of the semester.

Intended Audience:

First-year students interested in learning about the Middle East through the life stories and narratives of its people, students interested in engaging in creative writing and other forms of creative expression, and students open to engaging in learning analytically, introspectively, creatively, and experientially.

Class Format:

Two 90-minute meetings weekly. There will be a combination of discussion in pairs, small groups, and seminar-style/full circle, as well as sharing and presentation of creative life-stories. The class will include a couple of workshops to prepare students to conduct a personal oral history interview and for telling a five-minute 'Moth’ style personal narrative. The class will incorporate exercises and activities devoted to cultivating mindful awareness of multiple aspects of the human experience.


ENGLISH 140 - First-Year Seminar on English Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
 In Person
6Enrollment Management
MW 8:30AM - 10:00AM
004 (SEM)
 In Person
6Enrollment Management
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
005 (SEM)
 In Person
6Enrollment Management
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
006 (SEM)
 In Person
3Enrollment Management
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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