Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Secrets, Secretions / Lowdowns, Leaks

Spring 2012
Duke English

This course will think through the concept of a “secret” and how it functions in literature and everyday discourse, how it is both a technology and an ethics. Given the recent attention to Wikileaks that declares itself a “non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important information to the public,” this course will consider the relationship of knowledge and publics, of the sharing and withholding of information. Just who determines what information is important and how to disseminate that information to the public?

The course will think historically about different revolutionary moments that have taken place by way of secret and secreted information, by “giving the lowdown” and the leaking of knowledge from person to person, from community to community. We will investigate, for example, the relationship between the songs and sounds of Underground Railroad that became the occasion for escape from enslavement in the United States with the most recent prison strike in Georgia, prisoners using contraband cell phones passed along to them by prison guards in order to resist for greater nutrition, pay and health. What of the "down low" as a "phenomenon" that at once names sex, sexuality, race and gender as a fundamental problem in need of control, control by way of detecting secrets and spreading rumor and gossip?

What is the discourse about knowledge and power when secrets are secreted? What is the relationship between leaks and solution, flows and poetics? We will think about how networks are constructed and how the first forms of “social media” were objects like songs, whispers and hushes. We will read from several genres including Slave Narrative, Graphic Novels, Speculative Fiction and comments sections on blogs and news website. Students will be required to write a weekly blog entry response to the course reading material as well as prepare a major final writing research project on one a particular topic of interest selected in consultation with the professor.

1 comment:

  1. What speculative fiction are you reading? Josh and I have been reading a fair bit recently...