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Stories of America, Past and Present

Learn contexts for the present moment in America by studying the past with these Fall 2020 courses.

CMLT277: Literature of the Americas (Nancy Vera)

In this course, we will examine the formation of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, beginning from the colonial period to our present times. Since this is a course about the formation of America, we will also be covering the transatlantic slave trade from Africa to America and the Indian slave trade from Asia to the Caribbean.

We will learn the history of American countries and their Native American inhabitants by examining novels, travel logs, diaries, and letters from Native American writers and Spanish, French, and Portuguese colonists. All works will be available in English.

At the end of this course, we will understand how a national body—a "real" Mexican, Salvadoran, American, etc.—are wholly constructed concepts and not essential identities as they are presented to be.

To demonstrate proficiency in these topics, students can choose to demonstrate their understanding through different communication forms: essays, poems, podcasts, illustrative cartoons, collaborative writing projects, book reviews, blog entries, social media posts, Wikipedia article edits, or other creative projects.

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*ENGL222: American Literature, 1865-Present (Kerishma Panigrahi)

"This Land is Whose Land? Nationalism and Borders"

From the resounding calls to abolish ICE, to the cry that Black Lives Matter, to the declaration that there is no justice on stolen land, the people are demanding that the U.S. confront its uncensored past like never before. This course seeks to contextualize our current moment within the longer history of U.S nation-building through an examination of literature from the Civil War to the present. We will read with an attentiveness to issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, immigration, environmentalism, and imperialism as central to understanding U.S. history. We will consider the questions: What is “America,” and what do we know as “American literature?” Where did these constructs come from, and have they remained stable throughout history?

Course texts will range in genre and medium, including novels, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, film, and music. Writers studied may include but are not limited to Zitkála-Šá, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, Vine Deloria Jr, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Louise Erdrich, Maxine Hong Kingston, Junot Diaz, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

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*ENGL368B: Blues and African American Folksong (Barry Pearson)

This course explores the rich variety of African American song–blues, ballads, spirituals, gospel, reels, worksong, zydeco, rhythm and blues, soul–in the context of the community events that supported these styles. We will focus on song as community expression, entertainment, ritual and social commentary in relation to African American folklore, American music history and the record industry. Midterm and final research paper.

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* ENGL368D: African American Folklore and Literature (Barry Pearson)

This course uses a multimedia format to explore various genres of African American traditional culture such as:

  • Narrative forms including myth, legend, and folktale
  • Musical forms such as blues, ballads, gospel, spirituals, work songs, rhythm & blues, and soul
  • Belief systems including conjure, hoodoo, supernatural witches and ghosts
  • Customary practices ranging from signifying to jook house celebrations
  • Augmented by film and sound recordings we will consider these forms and black performance style in context and as part of an ongoing pattern of traditional preferences or aesthetics. In the process, we will look to iconic figures such as Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, and to collectors and cultural brokers including Zora Neale Hurston and Alan Lomax.

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ENGL378Z: Women and Memory in Material and Digital Worlds (Jessica Enoch)

This course focuses on how the U.S. is remembering the 100-year anniversary of its 19th Amendment—women’s right to vote—ratified in 1920.  We will explore commemorative projects dedicated to the suffrage anniversary by considering such questions as which suffragists are remembered and why?

How are commemorative projects engaging the exclusivity and diversity of the suffrage movement? And, in what ways are commemorative projects connecting the suffrage anniversary to the 2020 presidential election, present-day feminist and electoral politics, and voting rights? We will study a range of commemorative genres dedicated to the suffrage movement from YouTube memorializations to monument creations and from plays and musicals to art installations.  Interested in these questions and concerns? Enroll in this course!

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See the full list of Fall 2020 courses.