This coming spring quarter 2013, Bellevue College, as made possible through the English department, has made available to students a new course ENGL&111 Introduction to Literature course, “Latino American Writers.” As with other ENGL&111 courses, the outcome will be aimed at achieving an appreciation, understanding and application of the three main genres of literature: poetry, fiction and drama.
However, in this course, it will be done so with a primary focus on Latino American writers and their contributions to American history and literature. David Kopp will be teaching the course on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30-2:40 p.m.
Aside from instructing the course, Kopp is also responsible for proposing and developing the course’s curriculum, a process that has been in the works since last academic year, winter quarter 2012.
Kopp among those faculty who responded to a letter addressed to the college at the beginning of the quarter by members of El Centro Latino and the Latin American Culture Club. El Centro and the LACC made clear in this letter that had it not been for the efforts of a select few, the Latin American student populations would have otherwise gone completely unrepresented during Hispanic Heritage Month, and that the college as a whole had failed to support them.
“It’s good timing that this class is coming out after [the letter], though it wasn’t a reaction or response to it…I knew this class was coming already, as I was planning it since last year. Do after the letter I contacted a few folk and said one of the ways I can show that I and the English department not only value the student populations here, but value their identity and their culture, is offering this class,” said Kopp, “I think it’s important our Latino students can see themselves represented in the curriculum.”
Kopp then went about putting together a flier to advertise the class, received about 100 copies and posted them around the college campus to elicit an interest from students.
Developing the course curriculum and finding the appropriate texts needed were by no means easy tasks according to Kopp.
In narrowing down the selection of materials, and the text from which the class would be taught, Kopp struggled to find an anthology that would appropriately represent all the populations to be surveyed in the course.
The cool thing about “Latino American Writers is in addition to including one of the main voices in the genre, Chicano/Chicana, or Mexican-American, it also includes Puerto Rican, Dominican-American, Cuban-American, and other essential voices within the genre,” said Kopp.
Often in his search, Kopp found only Latin American literature that includes Central and South American or Chicano/Chicana literature that is mostly Mexican-American, but rarely both. The chosen text offers “a bit of everything.”
One of the distinguishing elements of this course boasts is Kopp’s approach to teaching the materials.
“I feel it’s sometimes dangerous if you just have a collection of different authors without context because you can further marginalize them. This class provides the space, the time and the place, to really deeply look at this genre of American literature,” said Kopp. “My approach is to let me expose you to stuff that you might not have heard of. This class is not necessarily for Latino students, or for non-Latino students, it’s for everyone.”
Also incorporated into the curriculum are appearances by special guest lecturers during several of the class days so as to facilitate discussions on poetry and fiction.
“The main overarching theme of the class is how in reading this discussing this, analyzing this, and developing positions and reactions to this, we can use it to enrich our perspectives and the world around us,” said Kopp.