Spring 2011 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Smith, Erin
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6372 Section 001
W Time 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Course Title
American Ethnic Literature

Description of Course:

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, 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 proletarian writing, middle-brow institutions like the Book-of-the-Month Club, film, television, mass culture, and educational institutions?

Required Texts:


Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)
Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
Anzia Yezierska, Breadgivers (1925)
Philip Roth, Call It Sleep (1934)
Pietro di Donato, Christ in Concrete (1939)
Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey Into Night (1940, 1956)
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)

Secondary Readings may include essays by: Henry Louis Gates, Werner Sollors, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Gloria Anzaldua, Kwame Anthony Appiah, David Roediger, Paul Lauter, Nina Baym, Janice Radway, Fredric Jameson, Marcus Klein, Thomas Ferraro, Mary Dearborn

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

seminar preparation and participation, class presentation, prospectus and final paper (20 pages).

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