Professor receives grant to invite authors to discuss resisting harmful ideologies

March 21, 2023 (Volume 46, Number 14)
Article by Clemence Daniere

Three authors, who have lived lives of resilience against adversity, will share their stories with students in an English course because of a grant from the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center.

Students in David Álvarez’s World Literature class will connect with the authors thanks to an FTLC Teaching Innovation Grant.

As a course with open content, Álvarez has liberty to choose literature he believes will best suit his intentions for student learning. Álvarez, professor of English, said he chose works that shed light on some of the harmful ideologies persistent in our world: past and present. 

Students are reading testimonial writing, a style that originates from Latin America and focuses on the truth of the author’s experiences. Through this writing, students will learn about white supremacy in South Africa, anti-indigenous racism in the Americas, ultranationalism and antisemitism in Argentina, and anti-Palestinian racism in contemporary Israel.

“What I really want to stress is how humans can creatively resist harmful ideologies and their real-world effects,” said Álvarez. “We’re also going to look at how literature itself can be a form of resisting harmful ideologies.”

Later this semester, three authors will virtually join classes to share their stories and allow students to dive deeper into the inner workings of their books. 

Nora Strejilevich, author of "A Single Numberless Death," Mosab Abu Toha, author of "Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza," and Refaat Alareer, editor of "Gaza Writes Back," will join students to discuss their works.

Since coming to Grand Valley in 1997, Álvarez has taught courses on contemporary world literature for his home department of English, as well as for the Meijer Honors College.

He has also served as associate faculty member for three departments: African and African American Studies, Latin American Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. In all his courses, Álvarez said he has encouraged students to explore how literature can shed light on how harmful ideologies are constructed, as well as on how humans have creatively countered their effects.

“These are very serious topics and as we delve into these very difficult materials, I try my best to emphasize ways that people creatively resisted the harm that was done to them. I want my students to come away inspired and empowered from studying the testimonies and their contexts,” he said. 

 

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This article was last edited on March 20, 2023 at 3:24 p.m.

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