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Spring 2007
HUSL 6372.001                           
Thurs. 1 - 3:45 p.m.                        
JO 4.312   

American Ethnic Literature

This course is an introduction to twentieth-century American ethnic literature and a critical examination of how literary canons and sub-canons are constructed.  We will read Jewish up-from-the-ghetto narratives from the early twentieth century, the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, popular and proletarian literature from the 1920s and 1930s, and contemporary novels by ethnic writers.  In what ways do the gender, ethnicity, class and sexuality of an author influence the writing and reading of texts?  How are “American” literary traditions created and maintained?  What is at stake in the creation of alternative literary traditions—African-American, Asian-American, Native American, Hispanic, white ethnic traditions? What is the role of mainstream or white patronage in the creation and distribution of this literature?  In what ways do class, gender and sexuality inflect these traditions?  What role does religion play in these texts?  What is the place of the “old country?”  Do national literary traditions do justice to the writings of ethnic authors?  What are the links between these authors and the labor movement, middle-brow institutions like the Book-of-the-Month Club, film, television, mass culture, and educational institutions?


Claude McKay, Home to Harlem (1928)

Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)

Anzia Yezierska, Breadgivers (1925)

Henry Roth, Call It Sleep (1934)

Pietro di Donato, Christ in Concrete (1939)

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972)

Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior (1975)

Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1981)

Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)

Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salome (2000)

Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues (1996)

Khaled Hosseini, Kite Runner (2003)
Wener Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity:  Consent and Descent in American Culture (1986)
selected readings on e-reserve at

All texts available at Off-Campus Books or the UTD bookstore

Course Requirements / Evaluation Criteria: 

*seminar attendance, preparation and participation
*class presentation (including 1-page handout of 3-5 questions for discussion)
*Final Project
     *prospectus (3 pages) and bibliography due Thurs. 22 Mar.
     *final paper (20 pages) due Thurs. 26 April

Learning Objectives:

1.  Students will be able to describe the work of American ethnic writers and the major issues and questions in literary scholarship about them.  

2.  Students will be able to analyze and evaluate literary and literary historical arguments made by scholars in the field. 

3.  Students will research and write a literary or literary historical argument about some aspect of American ethnic writing. 

Course Schedule:

Thur. 11 Jan. Organizational / Intro. to Course
Gates, “’Authenticity,’ or the Lesson of Little Tree” (handout)


Thurs. 18 Jan.

Race/Ethnicity and Literary Traditions

Kwame Anthony Appiah, chap. 20, “Race” in Critical Terms for Literary Study, 2d ed., Ed Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995): 274-87 (e-reserve)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Editor’s Introduction:  Writing ‘Race’ and the Difference It Makes,” “Race,” Writing and Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986): 1-20 (e-reserve).

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “The blackness of blackness:  a critique of the sign and the Signifying Monkey,” Black Literature and Literary Theory (New York: Routledge, 1984): 285-321 (e-reserve).

Werner Sollors, chap. 1, “Beyond Ethnicity,” and chap. 2, “Typology and Ethnogenesis,” in Beyond Ethnicity:  Consent and Descent in American Culture (New York: Oxford UP, 1986): 1-65.

Matthew Frye Jacobson, “Introduction:  The Fabrication of Race” (1-12) and “Epilogue:  Ethnic Revival and the Denial of White Privilege” (274-80) in Whiteness of a Different Color:  European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998) (e-reserve).

Michael Omi & Howard Winant, “Toward a Racial Formation Perspective” and chap. 4, “Racial Formation,” Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s, 2d.ed. (New York: Routledge, 1994): 48-76 (e-reserve). 


Thurs. 25 Jan.

McKay, Home to Harlem

David Levering Lewis, chap. 4, “Enter the New Negro,” When Harlem Was in Vogue (New York: Oxford UP, 1981): 88-118 (e-reserve).


Thur. 1 Feb.

Larsen, Passing

Deborah E. McDowell, “Introduction,” Quicksand and Passing, by Nella Larsen (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1986): ix-xxxvii.


Thurs. 8 Feb.

Yezierska, Breadgivers

Mary V. Dearborn, “Anzia Yezierska and the Making of an Ethnic American Self,” The Invention of Ethnicity, ed. Werner Sollors (New York: Oxford UP, 1989): 105-23 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 15 Feb.

Roth, Call It Sleep

Thomas Ferraro, chap. 3, “Oedipus in Brownsville:  Parricide, a House Divided, and Call It Sleep,” Ethnic Passages:  Literary Immigrants in Twentieth-Century America (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993): 87-122 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 22 Feb.

Donato, Christ in Concrete

Janice Radway, chap. 8, “Reading for a New Class:  The Judges, the Practical Logic of Book Selection, and the Question of Middlebrow Style,” A Feeling For Books:  The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (Chapel Hill: U of NC P, 1997): 261-304 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 1 Mar.

Reed, Mumbo Jumbo

Melani McAlister, chap. 2, “The Middle East in African American Cultural Politics, 1955-1972,” Epic Encounters:  Culture, Media and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (Berkeley: U of California P, 2005):  84-124 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 8 Mar. SPRING BREAK


Thurs. 15 Mar.

Kingston, Woman Warrior

King-Kok Cheung, “The Woman Warrior versus The Chinaman Pacific:  Must a Chinese American Critic Choose between Feminism and Heroism?” in Conflicts in Feminism , ed. Marianne Hirsch & Evelyn Fox Keller (New York: Routledge, 1990): 234-51 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 22 Mar. Prospectus and Bibliography Due

Kogawa, Obasan

Kandice Chuh, chap. 2, “Nikkei Internment:  Determined Identities/Undecidable Meanings,” in Imagine Otherwise:  On Asian Americanist Critique (Durham: Duke UP, 2003): 58-84 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 29 Mar.

Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (1917) in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XIV (1914-1916), (London: Hogarth, 1957): 243- 258 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 5 Apr.

Alvarez, In the Name of Salome

Gloria Anzaldua, “Preface,” (1-2) and chap. 2, “Movimientos de rebeldia y las culturas que traicionan” (15-23) in Borderlands/La Frontera:  The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987) (e-reserve).


Thurs. 12 Apr.  Alexie, Reservation Blues

Michael M. J. Fischer, “Ethnicity and the Post-Modern Arts of Memory,” Writing Culture:  The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Berkeley: U of California P, 1986): 194-233 (e-reserve).

Thurs. 19 Apr.

Hosseini, Kite Runner

Edward Said, “Introduction,” Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1978): 1-31 (e-reserve).


Thurs. 26 Apr. Final Papers due in my office by 4:00 p.m.

University Policies

Final Paper Handout