Instructors’ Teaching Experience
I taught Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and excerpts from Citizen in conjunction with Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and an interview with Rankine from Guernica (a week total). My students were excited to see how literature could engage current issues such as police violence and race in American society. In Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Rankine includes copious endnotes where she explains almost all of her allusions. The notes are extremely informative and engaging, and I find it useful to alert my students to those notes when assigning the reading.
On the first day of discussion, I spend a good amount of time asking the students what genre this text would fall into. I also call attention to her subtitle, and ask how a lyric is different from something else, like a memoir or an anthem for example. I also find it useful to discuss the book’s structure; the students are usually interested in the visual elements of the text. I always ask them what they think the television screens are doing (and for the ambitious I ask if they can make a connection between the structure the TVs provide and Rankine’s discussion of parataxis, a term which they will need defined). I also call their attention to the slippage of the pronouns and what this slippage might be accomplishing. Rankine moves between first, second, and third person pretty seamlessly.
On the last day of discussion, I had the students do a free write based on the book’s epigraph and a quote that Rankine gives from Myung Mi Kim: “And most of all beware, even in thought, of assuming the sterile attitude of the spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of grief is not a proscenium, a man who wails is not a dancing bear…” [Aime Cesaire]