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Geographies of Memory

This course travels to the Dominican Republic to question what is “geographies of memory” and how does the meaning mapped onto geography determine the way we “re-member” it? As an American Literature course, we will begin where the first point of European/Amerindian contact and thus the first inception of “America” began: the Dominican Republic. We will consider how historical writings about this nation and its people are still witnessed centuries later or not at all. We will pressure the way that we conceptualize “Contemporary American Literature” by determining the criteria by which it is demarcated: is it only from a particular geography? Is it dependent on a particular aesthetic, or potentially genre exclusive? To engage these questions, we will travel throughout the island to see museums, factories, tourism trade, and natural reserves. To prepare for this trip, students will read and respond to several texts. While there, students will be responsible for journal writings that will culminate in statements regarding their learning process. Spanish proficiency is not required for this course, although basic working knowledge will be helpful during individual exploration time.

Reading list:

de las Casas, Bartolomé. Tears of the Indies.
Diaz, Junot. This is How You Lose Her.
Cruz, Angie. Soledad.
Perez, Loida Martiza. Geographies of Home.
Alvarez, Julia. Time of the Butterflies.

Other Courses:

Topics in Ethnic Literature

Latino Literature: But is it Sexy?

Among the stereotypes for Latinos and Latin Americans is the one of the great lover: for women, the sultry seductress and for men, the valiant seducer. While these stereotypes are not new in this millennium, they have roots that stretch back centuries and that have led to their current incantations in contemporary U.S. popular culture. In this course, we will consider representations of sex and sexuality, heteronormativity, and challenges to the exoticizing of Latino bodies in the U.S. that render images of Latinos as sexual commodities. We will consider the distinctions between eroticism and pornography that exist in these conversations, and how it manifests as an integral component to reimagining identity in our current era. 

Narratives of Identity: Urban Street Memoirs

The twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States has witnessed the rise of urbanization. This urbanization has led to both economic boons and blights, bringing forth riches never previously imagined for non-aristocrats and the emergence of a geo-racialized poverty that was similarly unimaginable. For those experiencing this latter reality, the urban setting is inherently linked with the need for survival skills shaped by the meanings imbued into different identities. In this course, we will examine the emergence of “urban street memoirs” in the United States. We will consider how the narrators in the texts listed for this course identify the subject positions they inhabit, as well as how they have navigated the streets of their existence. We will engage questions regarding the meaning of an “identity,” and how writing provides a tool for moving from survivors to thrivers to educators. 

20th Century American Literature

What is real? How do you know? Is reality a matter of facts without essence, without the murkiness of vitality? Or is reality the very essence of vitality infused into the minutest details and transcending the limitations of that which might be possible? In this course, we will engage these questions in relation to a major literary genre of the 20th Century Américas: magical realism. As a class, we will consider what the tenants are for this genre, how it can be identified, and what differentiates it from other artistic movements. We will read both major authors in this genre and texts considered foundational for its emergence. We will also trace the developments of this genre across time and locale, considering what makes it a truly “American” genre in the sense of inhabiting and embodying two continents. 

Literature in a Global Context:

Anti/DeColonial Literatures

The year 1492 marks a major shift in global history. It is both the year that the Moors were defeated in Granada as well as the invasion of Iberian conquistadors into the Americas. Such shifts are monumental for not only what they meant at the time but also their long lasting ramifications. In this course, we will consider these ramifications as they are depicted within Anticolonial, Postcolonial, and Decolonial thoughts. We will consider literature and theory that grapples with the legacies of colonization as well as resistance to Western European coloniality. 

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