Writing Diversity in America
This seminar offers an interdisciplinary study of contemporary American literature. Through active readings of literary and visual narratives centering on African American, Asian American, Chicana/o, Native American, disabled, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender subjectivities, we examine how creative uses of discourse articulate and challenge historical contexts and longstanding social inequalities. Primary readings include a selection of short stories, excerpts of novels, plays, comic performances, and autobiographical essays by Octavia Butler, W.E.B. Du Bois, Cherríe Moraga, Toni Morison, among other authors, which are complemented with critical studies on narratology, American history, Critical Race Theory, feminism, and Queer Studies. Class discussions and assignments address the narratives’ relation to social issues such as racial and ethnic discrimination, intersectionality, heteronormativity, migration, gender and ecological inequality, but also explore the artistic and aesthetic devices—including humor, intertextual allusions, linguistic hybridism, and the fantastic—used to convey the broad and complex experience of being a minority in the U.S.
Postmigration: Toward the Study of Migration Heritage
In this seminar we draw from fiction, history, and politics to explore migration heritage in contemporary France, Germany, and the United States. We begin by discussing key issues of critical migration research in the humanities and social sciences and move on to consider the premises of the concept of Postmigration, a concept which conceives the socio-material experience as sites of negotiation, conflict, and hybridism resulting from past and present migrations. We then critically examine and compare literary, visual, and digital narratives through themes that include identity, memory, cultural hybridity, gender, ethics of representation, and space. Finally, we explore the discursive and analytical space of Postmigration and storytelling as tools for social change. Authors include, among others, Mehdi Charef, Sandra Cisneros, Faïza Guène, Alejandro Morales, Zafer Şenocak, Selim Özdoğan, and Leïla Sebbar.
Multicultural Art of the U.S.
In 2020 it was estimated that more than 40% of the American population belongs to an ethnoracial minority and yet, their cultural contributions are often overlooked in art history, mainstream museums, and in the international reception of American art. At the turn of the 21st century, we have seen a gradual change with the development of new initiatives supporting multicultural artpractices in the U.S. as shown by the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2003, the Smithsonian's Latino Center in 2006, The Chinese American Museum DC in 2017, among other institutions that continue the mission of pioneering art centers such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, The National Center of Afro-American Artists, El Museo del Barrio, The Mexican Museum, or the National Museum of the American Indian. In this spirit of decolonizing perspectives on American art, this course dedicates sessions to the discussion of artistic productions by African American, Native American, Asian American and Chicano artists.
Literature and the Civil Rights Movement
Covering key periods of modern American cultural history (the Jim Crow laws, the desegregation campaigns post 1945, Brown v. Board of Education, the King Years, the Black Arts Movement, and the Black Power Movement) this interdisciplinary course centers on literature from and about the Civil Rights Movement. The general questions guiding our analysis include: how do perceptions of race and racial difference as well as the legacy of abolitionist writings inform cultural productions of the Movement and beyond? How do American writers and visual artists respond to the ideals, victories, and setbacks of the “undefeated but unfinished revolution” (Dubek 2018) of the Civil Rights Movement? How can we further its study beyond a black/white binary and include creative responses by other minority groups? Readings include printed, visual, and oral sources which are complemented with readings of the press and a critical bibliography in order to better understand the complex cultural history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement as well as its implications in today's political and cultural landscapes. Authors include, among others, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Harper Lee, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Anthony Brooks.
Cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldúa defines Borderlands as spaces where “two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy” (1999:19). She contrasts this concept with borders, which she sees as dividing lines set up to define safe and unsafe places, to distinguish between “us” and “them.” In this seminar, we reflect on the interplay between borders and borderlands as they manifest in literature, visual arts, and beyond. Our readings center on fiction, creative non-fiction, and critical thought from and about the American Southwest, but our critical bibliography, discussions, and research assignments address other border regions. The course is divided into four themes: the construction of borders, border-crossing, and the destruction and preservation of borders. Authors include, Leslie Marmon-Silko, Sandra Cisneros, Demetria Martinez, among others.
Global Crime Fiction
Crime fiction is one of the world’s most popular literary genres. It encompasses detective fiction, heists, mysteries, suspense, espionage, police stories, among many other subgenres that attest to the flexibility and diversity of the genre. In this course, we study a selection of global crime narratives from the invention of genre in the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century and examine the historical, cultural, and political underpinnings directing the authors and the readers. What is the global appeal of crime fiction? What are the major similarities and differences between classic and contemporary narratives of crime? What can a study of crime fiction reveal about sociocultural anxieties, gender and race relations, and the interactions of fiction and reality? As we read closely works by authors that include, Poe, Conan Doyle, Chester Himes, and Christie, we will question the evolution of the genre, its conventions, tropes, as well as its adaptations in different global and historical contexts. The first part of the course concentrates on crime fiction from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, while the second part on the twentieth and twenty-first century.