Duygu Ula

First-Year Writing Teaching Statement

One of the most important skills you can develop as a first-year writing student is the practice of turning a critical eye towards your own assumptions, practices and expectations, both regarding the course themes we will study and your own writing practices. In this class, we’ll aim to discern how the texts we encounter shape and determine our perception through their style and rhetoric, and how we, in turn, can use that awareness to be more deliberate in our own writing. Using the close reading and critical analysis skills we will develop over the course of the semester as our primary tools, we will work on building cogent and nuanced arguments that engage with the texts and the existing scholarly conversations around them in new and unexpected ways.

My FYW course for Fall 2019, “Legacies of the Mediterranean: Queer/Migrant,” focuses specifically on narratives of queer and/or migrant subjects, who must negotiate their identities vis-à-vis dominant discourses of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality and citizenship. Often positioned in the periphery of the dominant cultural, political and linguistic spaces, queer and migrant narratives offer us a critical perspective on the invisible structures and institutions that order and shape our world. In Giovanni’s Room, for instance, James Baldwin lays bare how class and ethnicity inform the queer and migrant experiences of his characters, while Virginia Woolf’s Orlando pushes us to examine how our understanding of gender and sexuality depends on the cultural, religious and geographic spaces we inhabit. Poems, short stories and nonfiction by other queer (im)migrant authors such as Warsan Shire, Masha Gessen or Trish Salah allow us to consider contemporary issues like the refugee crisis, LGBTQ rights discourses and diasporic trans* subjectivities, while theoretical texts by scholars of queer and diasporic studies, such as Jasbir Puar, Gayatri Gopinath, Maya Mikdashi and Edward Said, help us articulate how transnational power dynamics impact the lives of minority subjects.

My own research focuses on how queer identities are articulated in contemporary art, film and literature in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and how paying attention to marginalized or understudied regions can help us challenge dominant narratives of gender and sexuality. This is the sensibility I bring to my FYW: Legacy of the Mediterranean course, where we will explore the radical potential of texts that challenge the status quo and that insist on claiming a space for marginalized narratives.