Readings in Critical Race and Post-Colonial Studies (Post-1800)

L648 — Spring 2020

Alberto Varon
Days and Times
1:00p - 2:15p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

*This course is offered at both the 600- and 700- level and is listed in both places. To sign up at the 700-level, you will need authorization.

TOPIC: Movement Writing: Contemporary Ethnic American Fiction

This course focuses on the literary contributions by American writers of diverse backgrounds in the roughly two decades bookending the millennium. Referencing both past and future, “Movement Writing” draws attention to the distance between contemporary ethnic American fiction and the civil rights movements of a generation ago, but is also a nod to the transnational circulation of bodies, goods, and cultural texts especially since the turn of the twenty-first century.

The course begins with the year 1994, a pivotal yet under-examined moment in U.S. history, which saw the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. While most public discourse focuses on NAFTA’s political and economic impact, its cultural influence is less understood. What began as an economic idea designed to promote free trade and open markets—cornerstones of neoliberal ideals that varied widely but generally prioritized the privatization of enterprise and a response to the perceived negative effects of increased regulation and state involvement in market activity—gradually evolved into a political agenda that has extended across the globe.

This course will consider current ethnic American writing in the context of these political and economic changes, examining NAFTA’s impact on American culture through narrative strategies of adaptation, translation, and transmediation. These narrative techniques, alongside metafiction and other formal experimentations, stalwarts of postmodern, experimental and avante-garde fiction, are amplified by the heightened interest in the shifting political contexts that determine the content of their expressions. We will analyze novels for their aesthetic form and content, but will also consider the novel’s visual/filmic/ performance interlocutors. Students will be encouraged to consider the aesthetic implications of these and other relevant forms of narrative, including on and in digital media. Key concepts we will discuss include: transmediation; adaptation; metafiction; nostalgia; translation; materialities; digital storytelling; transnationalism; visual cultural studies; music and sound studies; and performance. 

This course is primarily a readings course in current American fiction with emphasis on Latinx writing, but the multitudinous backgrounds and varying intellectual traditions out of which the selected writers emerge demand an interdisciplinary approach to the material. Thus, we will also read supporting work from other disciplines to complement the fictional texts and literary criticism, especially postcolonial, hemispheric, and transnational studies.


Primary Texts will likely include:

--Ana Castillo, Mixquiahuala Letters 

--Louise Erdrich, Four Souls (2004)

--Ena Lucia Portela, One Hundred Bottles (2010)

--Cristina Garcia, Lady Matador’s Hotel (2010)

-- Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams (2000)

--Manuel Munoz, What You See in the Dark (2011) 

--Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008)

--Salvador Plascencia, People of Paper (2006)

--Karen Zacarias, “Native Gardens” (2017)

--Ling Ma, Severance: A Novel (2018)

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details