Occupy Philly Free University
Revolutionary Narrative: Toward a Poetics of Power
Jacob Russell, Facilitator
Relevant Experience: Novelist, published writer of poetry & fiction. 12 years teaching Freshman Composition and Introduction to English Literature, Saint Joseph’s University. Involved in many forms of political and social action over the past fifty years.
We make a humanly habitable world with stories. Every story, by engaging us in the how & why of events, is about power, & is itself a struggle for power. This will be a class about the stories we carry in our heads—on how to put them into words, to identify the elements of power: an experiment in imagining our way toward what might become the narratives of another possible world. I expect this will engage us in wide ranging discussions of politics and power in our lives, & in the world around us.
Class time. Nine to twelve weeks
hour & a half, once a week.
Prerequisites: adult reading skills
Class will involve:
A. Writing: free & experimental. No previous experience with fiction or poetry required.
B. Discussion: group analysis of found narratives, those we find in ourselves, &
those we find around us.
C. Keeping a journal
D. Outside work: aside from journaling, we will try to keep writing assignments to
class time, but some outside work may be needed, for writing and gathering story material.
writing implements, a notebook, a marble composition book or anything else suitable
for keeping a journal.
Preliminary Class Plan
As ‘power’ will be our concern, we will begin by talking about power in the classroom setting, finding agreement on terminology we can use for Elements of Power—drawn from our own experience. In our first class we will work out and agree on a code of mutual respect, create a contract to define relationship and responsibilities between student/participants and those taking on the role of class leader.
At the end of the first class, we will write a brief statement in our journals of our expectations for the course.
Writing assignment: a brief, elemental narrative description of what each of us think happened as we worked out our contract and code of respect. Analysis & discussion—were our terms for Elements of Power useful. How might we revise them.
At the beginning of each class, one person will bring a story--verbal or written, whatever they feel comfortable with--about anything that seems to fit the story teller’s idea of a story. Followed by analysis & discussion.
Every third class we will review what we’ve done, compare this to what we wrote in our journals. Discuss where we would like to go for the next three weeks—more of the same? New ideas? Branch out, different people pursuing different objectives? After nine weeks, we can decide what we want for the final two weeks—what we think we might like by way of evaluation or confirmation (if anything)—in lieu of grades… or if we have consensus that we’ve completed at least a phase of this experiment.