Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez
When it comes to diversity in the English Department, I would say that UT Austin is a bit more diverse than other schools. That is to say, I’ve consistently seen diverse groups of literature offered as courses during my three-and-a-half-year journey as an English major.
My second semester, I took Mexican American literature with a white professor, which made the class’ point of view different from what I would’ve imagined. We read some classics such Borderlands: La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua, and my professor guided us on the rhetorical strategies Anzaldua used to write borderland history from her perspective. In addition, we read (our very own) Oscar Casares’ short story, “Brownsville,” and Ana Castillo’s So Far From God. All of these were unique, but effective choices that taught me how to close-read the perspective of Mexican Americans through literature.
In my third semester, I took African American literature and was exposed to even more pieces by Professor Helena Woodard. During this time, she challenged us to think about the black experience in America through different lenses, such as Jim Crow segregation, gentrification, environmental racism, police brutality, and feminism.
As I moved up, I was happy to see more and more courses that offered this space for people of color to thrive. I even found out that there have been Native American literature courses in the past. Professor David Kornhaber even focuses on Native American literature and studies. The catalog also includes literature that is relevant to the LGBTQ experience. One class which, in my experience, tackled as much diversity as possible was Yvette DeChavez’s American Novel after 1960 course. In this class we read all people-of-color and LGBTQ stories.
I truly do appreciate the vast amount of diversity that UT’s English Department offers. Although there’s always room for improvement, in a series of posts this month I will explore several diverse aspects of the UT English Department. From events that explore diversity to the students of color within the Department to the diversity in the faculty, I’d like to expose students from underrepresented communities to the aspects of English life that are similar to them.