Writing Trauma, Roxane Gay (Spring 2019)

WGSS 399 / AFAM 330
Professor Roxane Gay (WGSS)
Associate in Teaching Cera Smith (WGSS, AFAM, ENGL)
Monday, 6:00–9:00 PM
Spring 2019

Limited pre-enrollment, by application
Preference given to undergraduate WGSS and AFAM majors.

course description

Trauma is widely explored in contemporary writing but all too often, writers are careless in how they depict trauma. In such depictions, trauma serves as pornography—a way of titillating the reader, a lazy way of creating narrative tension. We see trauma as it unfolds but are rarely given a broader understanding of that trauma or its aftermath.

In this course, we will explore what it means to write trauma ethically in fiction and creative nonfiction. We will read texts that explore trauma in some form or fashion and also produce writing that explores trauma. Over the course of the semester, we will try to answer several questions by engaging in the practice of writing trauma. How do we convey the realities of trauma and its aftermath without being exploitative? How do we write trauma without traumatizing the reader? How do we write trauma without re-traumatizing ourselves when we write from personal experience? How do we write trauma without cannibalizing ourselves or the experiences of others? How do we tell stories of trauma without allowing the trauma to become the whole of our narratives? Finally, what does it mean to write trauma?


Applications close at 5:00 PM, Monday, December 17. Applicants will be notified of decisions by 5:00 PM, Monday, January 7.

About the instructor

Roxane Gay
Visiting Associate Professor, Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Professor Gay is a prominent writer and Associate Professor of English at Purdue University. She is Haitian American, and as a journalist and author on feminism, race, gender, and their intersections. Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.