ENGL 496: Essay #1

During the first few weeks of class we have focuses on non-Western writing systems that were in use before Europeans came to Abya Yala (i.e. the Americas). As we saw in our readings of the Popol wuj and the books of the Chilam Balam, these Native American writing systems and ways of reading in turn heavily influenced how Maya peoples used the Latin script forced upon them by colonial missionaries.

Following the format on the syllabus, for the first essay you will write a 3 page (minimum) essay on one of the two following questions, with an additional page for works cited. Essays must be well-designed and formatted, including a clear thesis and an argument. This is a shorter essay, so I do expect you to do some original research. You are free to use readings from the beginning of the semester, but please go beyond that! In addition, this essay can also be used as a platform to launch you towards the final project, which we will begin discussing in detail in the near future.

As always, the prompts below are more questions to get you thinking broadly about a theme, and are not meant to be answered one-by-one in the essay!

  1. As students reading these texts in a classroom in Western NC the 21st century, what have you learned from them (if anything)? What are the most important things we covered in class and what remains unclear to you? Is there anything you feel we should have emphasized that we did not? In your view, how does one successfully approach these works intellectually (in a classroom setting, etc.), and what does the study of these works offer to the study of “literature” (if anything)?
  2. Think about how you read these texts and compare that to how they would have been read in their original contexts. In terms of a “literary experience,” what do you think are the key differences between these two styles of reading? How do these differences in context also shift the meaning of the text (think: individual versus collective)? Why are such differences important? As transcribed performances, are there moments in these “written texts” that remind the reader of these texts of this status? Are there moments where the reader is reminded that these texts were not always written n Latin script?