Fall 2017
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

queer studies, philosophy, poetics
Catalina Ocampo
Spanish language, Latin American literature

"Not only do I code-switch in language," writes the late Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa, "but I jerk the reader around by also code-switching in genre: mixing genres, crossing genres from poetry to essay to narrative to a little bit of analysis and theory. The reader has to put it all together at the end." In an interview Anzaldúa adds: "My code switching is my way to resist being made into something else. [...] This resistance is part of the anticolonial struggle against both the Spanish colonizers and the white colonizers. [...] To me it is a political choice, as well as an aesthetic choice."

This intensive critical/creative reading/writing program is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of code-switching. Although the term was first used by linguists to describe the practice of alternating between two (or more) languages in a single conversation, we will enlarge the concept in order to consider code-switching between cultures, disciplines, discourses, genres, and identities. Our goal is to increase our ability to code-switch in all these senses, and to reflect on those abilities, to think about what we are doing, to theorize the practice. What does it mean to code-switch? Who does it and where? How and why do we do it? What roles do power and desire play in the practice? What are the relations between text and context? What are the relations between language and power, language and desire?

After studying some basic concepts around language and code, we will explore these questions by reading on texts from Latin America and the United States, including work by Latina/o/x and Native American communities that regularly code-switch between various cultural codes and queer writers who peer deeply into social codes from a subaltern perspective. We'll also explore how the idea of code-switching appears in media theory, in particular with respect to communication with ghosts, aliens, or occult forces as a kind of code-switching in mediated spaces. Our readings will come from a range of disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics, literature, and cultural studies. We will learn how to identify and work within the “code” behind each of those disciplines while considering when it is more appropriate to “break the code” of a discipline and how authors move between various codes within a single text. As we do this, we will also practice switching between different writing “codes.” We will read and write in various genres, including poetry, fiction, and the essay.

The short of it is this: we’ll be reading and writing (and re-writing) a lot, both in class and out of it, on the page and on the screen. At the same time, we will sharpen our cross-cultural skills and develop capacities to move within and between disciplines and cultural codes in the broader sense, inhabiting newly conceived aspects of the political and aesthetic spaces within which we, like Anzaldúa, seek to make choices.

Note: Students may choose to take a 4-credit language-only module for Spanish at the intermediate to advanced level or a 12-credit module for students registered for a separate language course.  Students interested in the language-only module should have at least two years of college-level Spanish or one year of intensive Spanish immersion offered in programs such as in The Spanish-Speaking World.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 10am (Lecture Hall 04)

Located in: Olympia

2017-08-294 and 12 credit options added.