Introduction to U.S. Minority Literature

Course Number: ENGL 50
Prerequisites: None
General Education Areas Fulfilled: GE Area G Requirement, Writing Requirement, Ethnicity Requirement
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 50
Quarter: Summer B 2011
Instructor:
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:25 PM
Location: GIRV 1115
Description:

This survey course will take as its starting point the political omissions, problematic essentialisms, and restrictive labels underlining the designation U.S. “Minority” Literature, to expose the invisible power forces at work in what John Rechy calls literary “ghettoization.” In other words, to understand the category of the “minority” we must understand how it is defined against the social construction of “majority” power. We will thus consider the following themes in U.S. literary practices: “Americanness,” whiteness, othering, mirroring, the body, the gaze, power, and desire.

Since competing desires are bound up with the interrelations among race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality, we will focus our examination of the ways in which power is constructed and dismantled through the specific lens of desire. How do literary works reflect, interrupt, subvert, and (re)claim the boundaries of desire in the United States? How does the intersection of various axes of identity complicate representations of desire? How have literary analyses historically overdetermined heteropatriarchy? How is the body figured as the site of violent cultural conflict and also of resistance? From an interdisciplinary perspective, we will examine literary, visual, and cinematic texts that intervene in heteropatriarchy’s suppression of non-normative desire. Particular emphasis will be placed on each narrative’s operation within and against multiple generic and literary conventions, and to recent developments in comparative race and ethnic studies. To supplement our primary readings of Nella Larsen, John Rechy, Ana Castillo, and Toni Morrison, we will read theoretical writings by Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Lázaro Lima, bell hooks, Hazel Carby, José David Saldívar, and Patricia Hill Collins. We will also expand our analysis of the four primary texts with short stories and performance pieces (by Sandra Cisneros and Sharon Bridgforth, for example).

Required Texts:
Passing by Nella Larsen
The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez by John Rechy
The Mixquiahuala Letters by Ana Castillo
Love by Toni Morrison