“Question your tea spoons,” Georges Perec advised, or “that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us.” In this workshop-based course, we will follow Perec’s maxim—to attend to and interrogate the mundane objects around us—with the caveats that Life in a Pandemic has imposed. Is “ordinary life” a fantasy—a catastrophe—an ideal from Before?
How can we understand extreme political, social, and environmental conditions as embedded in the ordinary? How can we write the ordinary—how can we live in it as writers? What forms and genres does it require? How do writers represent the present, full of ordinary (as the poet Lyn Hejinian once put it)? How does identity impact the way we represent, experience, and define what’s ordinary?
Writers reveal the ordinary: it is a realm of endless detail, fascination, and complexity; of secrets, traces, names and things remembered, vague events, found things, lost things, used things, things seen, routines and habits, artifacts; of missed connections, ambient feelings, violence, power’s operation; of resistance; of other spaces.
We will read work by authors including Gwendolyn Brooks, Gertrude Stein, Perec, Harryette Mullen, Claudia Rankine, Bernadette Mayer, and Nicholson Baker, among others. Requirements include: engaged participation and a final portfolio of work from the semester.
This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.