Amy E. Elkins - Reflection and Assignment for Writing About Literature

As an instructor at Emory University, I have used the archive and rare book holdings in MARBL in various learning contexts.  My aim has been to show students how to use primary sources in innovative, transformative ways that span the college curriculum.  In my ENG181 course on “Literature, Space, and Gender,” I wanted students to exercise skills in visual and material literacy to read more deeply into a text and its context(s).  The course asked how spaces—rooms, landscapes, and city streets—construct ideas about transgression, liberation, and oppression.  The students read paintings, buildings, a television show, short stories, theoretical perspectives, a graphic novel, novels, and poems to understand gendered spaces from 1885-present.  I incorporated artists’ books because they are multipart containers of meaning. They are often spatially complex, and the texts often grapple with historical shifts in perceptions about gender and sexuality in ways that can shed interesting light on our current moment.  Because these books highlight and frame the complexity of powerful cultural moments—from domestic violence and 9/11 to agricultural crises and women in the prison system—they challenge students to interpret with conviction, critical thinking, and urgency.

--Written by Amy E. Elkins, Instructor