Deconstructing Sentimentality in Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary

Proceedings of The 4th World Conference on Social Sciences

Year: 2022



Deconstructing Sentimentality in Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary

Dr. Ziyad khalifah Alkhalifah



In this paper, I examine the book Coal Mountain Elementary, a collection of poetry, written by Mark Nowak. More specifically, I tackle this postmodern book through oppressor\oppressed lens. In this book, Nowak attacks the global coal industry mainly by three fronts. First, the author shed some light on the Sago Mine explosion in Virginia in 2006, and its effect on the miners and their families. Second, Nowak shifts the focus to China and its mining system, and the horrors that the miners go through. Lastly, the author attacks the American Coal Foundation and its capitalist approach to the education system. My main argument in this paper is that how Nowak manages to uncover the brutal and inhumane life conditions that the miners are facing, without offering them as objects of sentimentality. By doing this, I prove how it is more effective to abandon the notion of sentimentality and look at the victims as subjects rather than objects. I reach the conclusion that Coal Mountain Elementary is a fundamental work of literature in voicing the concerns of the coal miners and their families. Also, how sentimentality can in certain situation weaken the message being sent. This paper attacks the global mining system, as well as capitalism.

keywords: sentimentality, postmodern, oppressed, working-class literature.