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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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LIT 4930: Florida Lit and Culture


Class 2: Introduction to Florida Literature

    Florida Literature: A Case Study (FL), Introduction and Rowe, pages 1-9; Bishop (22-3); Stevens (125-127)
    Additional poems: "Florida," "Seascape," by Elizabeth Bishop; Hopler "Of the Dead so much less is expected," and "Academic Discourse" (Canvas)
    DUE Post #1 (everyone)

    Class Objectives:

      Pretest
      Discuss writings on a Florida place
      Discuss the idea of Florida literature
      Contemplative reading of poem(s)

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

      For your weekly post, please continue your visualization and writing on a Florida place. Expand the line or statement about your place into a full post of at least 250 words. Some of the questions to consider:
      • How do you know this place?
      • What is your role in this place?
      • What does it feel like to be in this place?
      • How does / does not this place reflect me?
      • What about this place shapes me?
      • How is this place unique?
      • How has this place changed over time?
      • What will this place look like in six months, a year, ten years, one hundred years?
      • Who named this place? What are the implications of its name?

      ************************

      Introduction

      Recently I saw a meme circulating in my social network that claimed to list the most famous book set in every state. As an advocate for Florida literature, I was curious what book was best known from our large, geographically heterogeneous and culturally complex state. What do you think it was?

      I can think of two other famous works that I enjoy more and I believe represent Florida better: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s The Yearling, which actually won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m sure you can think of others, the favorites that remind you of your slice of Florida. Business Insider created the graphic, perhaps with the intent to promote such discussion. The editors created a sibling graphic displaying the most famous author from every state, an accolade that required that the author be born in the state; they got extra points for pride in writing about it. What do you think about ours?

      As a Floridian, I have far greater appreciation for Hiassen’s writing than I do for Hemingway, yet I can’t help but notice some problematic parallels between these two representative authors. To begin, both are white men. While the fact that white men rise to prominence in a field populated by men and women of a particularly rich ethnic variety is, unfortunately, not surprising, it suggests a misleading homogeneity to our literature. The second salient point is that both hail from or write about the southernmost part of the state, Miami and Key West, suggesting that these are the most significant literary places in Florida. In our class on Florida, these are two biases I’d like to resist, or at least open up to allow for a fuller picture of our state and the literary work produced in and about it.

      Florida Literature: A Case Study

      Collected and introduced by Caroline Hospital (Miami Dade College), this slim volume samples a variety of authors and genres with attention to ethnic and geographical diversity. In her introduction, tellingly entitled “Sorting Florida,” Hospital recognizes that Florida presents a confusing set of paradoxes at the heart of its identity. “Florida is both illusion and reality,” she writes. “And that reality is as much a product of the imagination as the result of a series of historical events or a mound of limestone” (2).

      What paradoxes define Florida for you? What paradoxes do you see emerging in the readings for today?

      Hospital also notes Florida’s geological paradoxes, that “most Florida literary works feel distinctly embedded in either sea or soil,” and that just “as beaches and scrublands are juxtaposed, so is an Old World nostalgic vision pitted against a New World city view” (3). Paradoxes pile upon paradoxes: “They define the state and contribute to its appeal. Florida is a multifaceted, challenging and beautiful place, at once nostalgic and full of promise; mature and adolescent; grounding and eluding. It has a rich history and heritage as well as a priceless and varied environment; however,” she warns, “these are too often unfamiliar to its inhabitants. In order to care for a place, you have to first understand it” (4).

      How might studying the literature of Florida help us to understand it better? What is at stake for you as a reader? As a student?

      Bishop, Stevens and Hopler

      I've assigned seven poems on Florida to begin our survey. Read the poems (both in the anthology and on PDF in Canvas) with an eye toward understanding the place of the piece. Annotate what strikes you as interesting, enlightening, significant, and we will begin our discussion from there. Pay particular attention to poems that reference "Florida."


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