In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, writer Junot Diaz says, “I think [my character’s] tragedy in a number of places in this book is that he keeps choosing his mask.” Many scholars of gender talk about American masculinity as a “mask,” and as Diaz states, this mask can lead to tragedy: suffering, disconnection, even violence. In this literature course, we will read authors who write toward a feminist view of manhood: one that emphasizes equality of the genders, emotional connection, and healthy relationships. Each writer we will explore puts a masculine character at the center of a novel, short story, or poem that exposes the ways in which gender norms can impede a quest for authenticity, connection, love, and truth. The texts in this course look at themes of friendship and mentorship; identity, race, and class; sexuality; and fatherhood. Together we will consider how these authors can help inform a range of feminist possibilities for men and masculine-identifying people. Authors: Sherman Alexie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others.
(from the Course of Study)
Presentations (in class):
Sign up for a week in which to give a presentation of 15 minutes pertaining to our current reading. You will do research and present us with scholarly information that intersects with our reading, goes deeper in some way, and raises questions that can follow us into the coming weeks of study.
- Bring us closer to themes, allusions, settings, or concepts in our readings. For example, a presentation on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby might look into the role of automobiles in American culture at the time period in which the book is set, as a way to delve into the recurring role cars play in the story. A presentation on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye might give us insight into the setting by providing a history of The Great Migration, followed by a chance to analyze Jacob Lawrence’s 1941 series of paintings exploring this period.
- Include an interactive component of some kind for the class. This could be any kind of activity ranging from a free-write or discussion, to a task more germane to your presentation’s content or message.