An Exploration of Diversity in UT Austin’s English Department

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.

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English Literature in High School: Literature or Civic Engagement?

Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez

Recently, I sat in class for one of my teaching courses which emphasized a desperate need for English teachers to teach tools to students that will help them in civic discourse. As a previous AP Language and Composition student, I got most of that covered—writing an argument, accepting or fighting back against one. Did your English teachers teach this in your high school English class? In this particular session, the professor made a point to say that although literature is good for the soul, helping students learn tools to use for civic discourse is more important.

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Problematic Heroes: Howard Roark

Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez

Note: this post contains spoilers from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

In the midst of the #MeToo era, I’d like to re-examine one of my old time literary heroes, Howard Roark. Roark is a character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead that champions individualism as well as criticizes collectivist values, because he deems them the murder of individual achievement. Throughout the novel, Roark faces notable adversity brought on by a collectivist group that is set to bring him down. His unique and innovative architecture style is rejected not only by firms, but even by large building firms who refuse to build his work. The novel focuses on the fact that Roark gets most of his work done by small construction firms and singular buyers, who are not afraid of public backlash, and buy Roark’s work because they believe in it. The novel champions individualism by ending with Roark’s triumph. However, despite this seemingly happy ending, there are dark moments in Roark’s character. Roark’s individualism and innovation represent the best of humanity, but how can the best face of humanity be a rapist?

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Small Steps: Dr. DeChavez’s Journey into Literature

Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez

This is how it all starts: it’s the first time that you see yourself. And it’s not just like seeing yourself in the mirror when you wake up in the mornings or when you take a shower in the evenings. It’s not like when you notice you have your mother’s hair one day as you stare at her. Or when you realize that the nose you want to go under the knife is actually a treasure your dad gave you. It’s more than that. It’s not reading Judy Blume, and ending it to the thought of oh I wish I could be like this.Or fantasizing about living in a nice house. No, this is better than Judy Blume. This is seeing yourself in San Antonio, growing up in a poor household, with a young narrator, but [who] was also very smart.It’s something “familiar and recognizable.And when you read this piece it made [you] feel that [you] didn’t need to be somebody else.

This is Yvette.

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