Crafting the “It Narrative” (DRA4237.01)

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig

If a plastic bottle could talk, what could it tell us about where it comes from and where it is going? What can we learn about labor, natural resources, extraction and global capitalism by researching and imagining the human and non-human worlds a single object has moved through?

“It-Narratives” are stories inspired by commerce and the circulation of goods that became popular during the industrial revolution in eighteenth-century England. In this course we will enter the realm of object-centered storytelling by reviewing classic Victorian examples of this genre (The Adventures of a Pin, Memoirs of a London Doll, & Autobiography of a Joint Stock Company.) We will also look at contemporary examples of this genre, such as Simon Rich’s short story Unprotected and Adam Curtis’ documentary Century of the Self.

The bulk of the course will be devoted to the research and development of new “It-Narratives” inspired by a single object that we will investigate together: a plastic bottle. Our inquiry will begin with science historian Donna Haraway’s work around the idea of object implosion, and lead us to explore sites such as manufacturer’s propaganda, the Pacific Garbage Patch, the history of Vermont’s ‘Bottle Bill,’ and the relationship between the waste industry and the ‘recycling movement.’ For their final project students will develop and workshop an “It-Narrative” inspired by this research in a genre and medium of their choosing.


Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the course students will be familiar with a range of strategies they can use to interrogate an object in service of imagining the human and nonhuman realms it might have passed through. They will have written several short pieces of research-based critical writing that explore the upstream and downstream life of a single object, and use this research to develop an original creative work.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Email francescowhig@bennington.edu the following: (1) Two writing sample of any length, ideally one critical/analytical and one creative (2) Your response to these questions: What draws you to this course? What relevant experience and interests do you bring to it?
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
F 2:10PM - 5:50PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency:

Categories: All courses , Drama , Fully In-Person , Advancement of Public Action
Tags: