For some reason that I’m not clear about, I am relegated to teaching only writing classes. This means that I can only teach first-year writing sessions (two a semester! Or three, if I’m lucky) and creative writing courses. I suppose I could teach professional writing courses in editing and publishing, but I’m not jumping up and down to do that.
But! I’ve come to my profession of teaching English courses because of my love of literature. In grad school, I fell in love with working class literature, especially from women of all backgrounds and people of color of all genders. Lately, I’m becoming more interested in queer lit and in slipstream, that wonderful slippery genre of scifi that’s literary (or, as of late, of horror that’s literary). Like many writers (if I may call myself that), my love of writing and desire to write are grounded in my love of reading.
The minimal teaching training I received during grad school has been rhet/comp, of course (most profs of English who aren’t in R1s have to teach these classes–often looked down upon, often considered service courses, often considered gateway courses into the humanities–but courses I enjoy nonetheless because they invite first-year college students to create with fewer boundaries than in their high school English courses), but also, under the tutelage of my wonderful advisor Judy Slater, I learned a bit about teaching literature. Unfortunately, I went into grad school without funding and without a TA, but I was determined to teach. I reached out to Judy who let me do an internship in her 20th century lit course and there, I found that I wanted and needed to teach lit as much as I needed to teach writing.
Alas, that is not the case at my present university. There are only so few lit classes to go around in our small department at our tiny regional state school. So, I teach fiction, poetry, intro to creative writing and a course I created called research for creative writers. In those classes, I do teach a lot of literature, but I limit discussion to reading as writers. We look at devices, conventions, styles, and topics in terms of writing. We look to writers for inspiration, not for study. And really, that is fine! I’m not being facetious; it IS fine.
Sometimes, I am able to teach a topics class. Research for creative writers was first a topics course before I created a permanent spot for it. Also in the past, I’ve taught a cycle class where students had to compose a cycle of work in any genre and a black feminist discourse class that was kind of a hodgepodge (I wanted to teach a black women’s lit class, but was discouraged; see above). Twice, once in the fall of 2020 (I believe. It’s been awhile, so I don’t quite remember the year), and in the coming spring of 2023, I proposed a creative writing topics class of Afrofuturism and twice, sadly, students did not sign up for the course. The first time I tried, there were six students. This time, there were three, so the course was canceled.
I was told that it was unpopular because students didn’t know what it was! I was told that it was unpopular because it wasn’t advertised well. I don’t know how true any of that is, but it is a class that could have been, but will never be.
Since I am not trying a third time, I will place the description of the course I wanted here on this blog. Steal it. Use it. Unpack and teach it. Or, if you want, contact me for a tutorial! Here’s the class as I imagined it:
Creative Writing: Afrofuturism is a workshop grounded in the traditions of Black (both Western and non-Western) literature and film in genre fiction. We will look at examples of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and lore written by Black people or in historical Black culture. We will also look at a couple of examples of these genres that showcase Black characters, but written by others. Finally, for examples, we will discuss genre fiction from other writers of color. For the written portion of this course, students will be invited to write creative work informed by the texts we read.
We will read traditional African fairy tales and folktales, African American folktales from slavery, various excerpts or full texts from African American writers, which may include Virginia Hamilton, Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler, Megan Giddings, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Colson Whitehead, N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Tomi Adeyemi, Stephen King, and Neil Gaimon. We will look at films, which may include Get Out, Good Hair, Pumzi, Black Panther, Afronauts, Night of the Living Dead, Blacula, an episode of “Black Mirror,” and an episode of “American Horror Story.”
- For each of the writings or films, students will have to participate in discussion board posts.
- Students are required to write a short piece each of:
- Fairy tale, lore, or fantasy
- Horror and
- Science fiction
- Students will write a longer piece of their choice for a final project. This final piece will go through workshop and process (that is, proposal, rough drafts and revision).