English Assistant Professor Will Clark: The Classroom as Monument

Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Will Clark in front of a bookshelf

THE RAMBLING -- Will Clark is an assistant professor of English at San Francisco State University. He works in queer studies, U.S. Literature and U.S. legal history; his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, ASAP/J, Nineteenth Century Literature and other venues. He wrote this opinion piece for The Rambling, a blog featuring essays by literature scholars.

“As the summer wound down, I left my visiting position for a tenure-track job at San Francisco State University, a quite different campus in a famously activist city,” Clark wrote. “SFSU itself embodies the conflict between academic disciplinarity and the often-ignored needs of marginalized students; a historic, five-month student strike over the institution’s Eurocentric curriculum in 1968 gave birth to the nation’s first dedicated School of Ethnic Studies. Social justice is now at the core of the University’s pedagogical objectives.

“Yet when I was tasked with teaching a class on the American Renaissance — the period of U.S. literature that put American writers like Melville, Emerson and Hawthorne at the center of American literary studies — I confronted the curricular requirements to cover a canonical history that felt at odds with the moment. How could I bring the energy of the summer to reflect on one of the most iconic — and white — periods of U.S. literature?”